Friday, July 27, 2007

Water Witching and Corporate Welfare

Management skills must be in very short supply at City Hall in Fayetteville, and there is no reason to have any more confidence in David Jurgens, Gary Dumas, and Paul Becker than in their boss. It seems that none of them can understand their jobs or make a decision without wasting taxpayers' money on over-priced out-of-state consulting firms. This time they are paying HDR Engineering to tell them about facts and policies for water and sewer rates; before that they paid thousands to Black & Veatch to tell them something different and apparently wrong.

I suppose this arrangement to enrich multiple consultants gives them someone to blame besides themselves and Greg Boettcher for the $63 million cost overrun and four year delay on the new sewer plant. Why can't these well-paid city employees just do the job we pay them to do and let the Mayor and City Council make the policy decisions?

There are important decisions to be made, and Fayetteville citizens had better be prepared for the coming cost of bad decisions made in the past. Beyond the waste of mismanagement, it is abundantly clear that current water and sewer impact fees are not paying for the required new infrastructure, and not even the additional regressive sales tax approved last year is enough to cover current and future expenses. On top of the 29% sewer rate increase in 2003, the consultant says Fayetteville requires another 20% increase in sewer rates and a 14% increase in water rates just to keep up.

What makes this even worse is that average residential customers are being asked to continue paying even higher rates to subsidize commercial and industrial corporations that place far higher demands on our water and sewer systems. Pay attention to this. Based on cost of service, residential water customers would face an increase of just over 4% while industrial users should pay 27% more. Mayor Coody and his hirelings are proposing that everyone pay an 11% increase to keep water rates lower for the business owners and stockholders. On sewer rates they want everyone to pay an additional 19.8%, although under cost-of-service increases would be only 8% for residential but 25% for commercial businesses and 51% for industrial corporations. Corporate welfare and socialism for the rich, in other words. Industrial and commercial users were told in 2003 that they wouldn’t be subsidized by residents in the future, but Bill Ramsey and the Chamber of Commerce are working vigorously to perpetuate this outrageous inequity.

And will someone please explain why Fayetteville voters are paying for increased capacity and financing water and sewer services for people who live outside the city or even in other towns? The bureaucrats have us paying millions in rebates for sewer service to Farmington, and now they also want to cut the water rates for customers outside the city while sticking it to Fayetteville residents.

Enough of this madness. Anyone who votes for this unfair scheme should be defeated at the polls next year, and we should start now recruiting candidates who pledge to support a fair rate structure and better management. Let's start with flat rates for water and sewer use so everyone pays the same rate, then let's consider a progressive rate structure that encourages conservation.

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