Talking Trash and Carrying Water at City Hall

Categories: City Hall, News
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The city's more or less shut down till Tuesday, what with a furlough day and Memorial Day on the schedule. Which is why City Hall has early-posted its Wednesday council briefing agendas on two subjects near and dear to every citizen: water and trash. At least one of 'em is gonna cost more next fiscal year; maybe both. Depends. Hard to say.

Water utilities for sure: City Manager Mary Suhm needs $541,073,815 in the coming fiscal year to keep the lawn nice and green, and that includes five significant capital improvement projects (pipeline replacement and pump-station improvements chief among 'em). Problem is, she's only got $523,073,834 projected to come in, which means a guesstimated shortfall of $17,999,981.

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And that will necessitate a rate increase of 4.2 percent, or an average of $2.21 tacked on to every monthly bill, which Suhm says is still well below the Environmental Protection Agency's affordability guidelines that say your water bill should be no more than 2 percent of the median household income.

But look at Page 14: "Future Outlook: Rate Increases." This appears to be the beginning of rate hikes, which will grow even more substantial in coming years.

On the other hand ...

The sanitation services fee looks, initially, headed toward a decline for the second year in a row -- this time by a whole three pennies, from $20.34 on average to $20.31. According to the briefing, that's due, sort of, to the money saved from the move to OneDay trash pick-up. The proposed rate is a whole 67 cents lower than the fee two fiscal years ago, incidentally, when a massive hike was necessitate by the rise in gas prices.

Only, there's one problem -- five, actually: Among other issues, the proposed rate doesn't take into account creating an emergency storm fund to offset the more-than-a-mil paid to private contractors to clear the February snowstorm mess, and it doesn't give garbage collectors the meager raise that's been talked about for years. Maybe next year.


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