Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Great Rates, Well Kinda

Congratulations to Alderman Kyle Cook and the Fayetteville Water and Sewer Committee for the fine job on developing a new water rate structure. After four months of serious work and discussion, the committee recommended rates that move more toward rational cost-of-service instead of the hidden costs and benefits of the old structure that penalized residential customers.

The proposed residential water rate structure will include pricing that gives a break to those who conserve water or who might be on fixed incomes by adopting a lower rate for the first 2,000 gallons per month and a higher rate for those consuming in excess of 15,000 per month. Some residential bills will actually be lowered under this plan. "I think we did a good thing tonight," said Alderman Lioneld Jordan. "This is really going to help the elderly people and low-income people who can't afford a rate increase."

Proposed sewer rates are quite another matter. The committee was divided and did not recommend a plan to the full City Council. Aldermen Cook and Jordan supported a cost of service plan to go into effect next year, the so-called Option B.

Bill Ramsey spoke on behalf of the Cowbirds and seemed to be confused. He said that one large industrial customer was taking steps to conserve water, like that was a bad thing, and this would reduce revenue to the city. He didn't seem to understand that providing wastewater service is not a moneymaking venture or that conservation was a goal of sustainability. It was almost like he was just making up stuff to get lower rates for certain large industrial users.

Following Ramsey's remarks Aldermen Adella Gray and Bobby Ferrell supported a plan that would give industrial users a special break and delay their paying cost of service by jacking up the rates on residential customers above the cost of service. Fayetteville Finance Director Paul Becker said this sop to the Cowbirds would have residential customers paying an extra $1.00 a month to pad the profits of Pinnacle Foods about $8,000 a month. Other corporations would be given smaller gifts of corporate welfare from the citizen ratepayers.

The various proposals will go to the full council for a decision. Let us hope that our elected representatives will do the right thing on sewer rates and assure fair cost-of-service for residential customers instead of soaking them to subsidize large corporate industrial users.

Understanding what has and is going on here makes it clear how important it is to have these meetings carried on the Government Channel 16 where citizens can see and hear what's really happening. The Morning News account by Dug Begley is accurate but still incomplete. The coverage by the Northwest Arkansas Times only serves to remind readers how much we will miss the outstanding reporting by Adam Wallworth, who usually understood what was important and could write coherently.

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