Two Pacific businessmen have complained that the proposed hike in city water rates is too steep. The city collector also worries that some residents on a fixed income will not be able to pay their water bills.
The discussions took place during the public hearing on the proposed water rate increase at the July 16 board of aldermen meeting.
No ordinance has been presented yet to aldermen. The public hearing was devised to give the public an opportunity to speak on the proposed rate increase.
Roger Gullet, who owns and operates an apartment complex, said if the new rates are approved his water bill would go from $1,000 to $1,800, which is 73 percent, much higher than the 45 percent increase he read about in the newspaper.
Gullet also questioned the city’s practice of rounding up the meter reading to the next whole number.
“I have six meters at the apartments. Say one building uses 36,090 gallons, so they’ll divide that by 16 meters then they round that up. If its 2,250 they round that up to 3,000 gallons. Now I’m paying for 16 units at 3,000 gallons a unit, plus a water charge for each unit,” he said.
“That’s a staggering number when you look at it because last month I paid $313 for water I didn’t use,” he noted. “Over 10 years that’s $37,000.”
Gullet said he hopes that the city will hold the increase to the 45 percent that was reported. He’s concerned about his tenants, many who live on a fixed income.
“You know, they’re living on $1,000 a month and have to take care of their house along with everything else,” he said. “I’m just hoping that instead of that $5.94 per unit increase you go for the real 45 percent, which is like $3.66 a unit.”
Bill Hoaglin, who owns and operates Beacon Car Wash at 675 E. Osage, also said in reality the increase proposed is higher than the 45 percent reported in the newspaper and it will hurt his business.
“I got an email from Mr. Roth (Steve Roth, city administrator) on my current 2019 usage through May and we averaged 214,000 gallons a month,” Hoaglin said. “If the proposed increase is approved by 2023, Beacon Car Wash would see its monthly water bill go from $500 to $716. That’s 52 percent.
“If I raise my car wash 52 percent, my customers will ask what am I getting?” he said. “My opposition to this raise is that 52 percent is a lot. It doesn’t taste good.”
City Collector Debbie Kelley also objected to the increase.
“This is too much too soon,” she said. “Let’s look at what we are collecting and collect what is not paid. I’m asking that you to go for half of the needed increase this year and half next year.”
Kelley said if the increase is approved, Pacific residents would be paying more for water than people living in Washington and Union.
Roth said the proposed increase is based on the city’s need to increase revenue in the water department fund by $200,000 a year.
“I think it will get us on an even footing, if you will, but again I really consider it to be about the minimum we would need to just turn things around,” Roth said. “In order to fund the system and fund the many improvements that we’ve identified we need more revenue.”
Needed improvements include:
Highway OO waterline extension, $90,000 fiscal year 2020 budget;
Route 66 east waterline extension, $80,000 fiscal year 2020 budget;
Blackburn Park reservoir, $100,000 fiscal year 2020 budget;
East Union Street water connections, $25,000 estimated, not yet budgeted;
Osage Street water main replacement (Thornton Street east to Fourth Street), $50,000-$75,000 estimated, not yet budgeted; and
Northside water engineering study, $25,000 estimated, not yet budgeted.
“One long-term project is to upgrade and replace our meters,” Roth said. “This is a multiyear project with significant expense, likely $500,000 or more. I have not discussed this with the board of aldermen, but feel it is an important improvement. Hopefully once we build our funding back we can start planning for this.”