Monday, April 14, 2008

Water rates rise due to conservation?

Posted By on Mon, Apr 14, 2008 at 2:31 PM

Putting a break on watering lawns and washing cars at home may have saved the city’s water supply, but it didn’t stop the Charlotte City Council from raising the water rates by 15 percent.

So what’s John Q. Public supposed to do now? Use water like there’s no tomorrow to justify the rate increase? Or continue the conservation efforts now to save water and cash?

City Councilman Andy Dulin, who with councilmen Warren Turner and Edwin Peacock voted against the increase, said he’s not convinced the water department has exhausted every effort to trim the department. He said the utility has a $20 million shortfall.

“They maintain themselves by selling water,” Dulin said. “And they’re selling less water because they asked us to [conserve]. They should’ve known this was coming six months ago.”

It makes you wonder, did the city ever take the old adage, “poor planning on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on my part,” into consideration? And will people continue to do the right thing?

Josh Dunn, a Charlotte resident, said the rate hike isn’t fair. “That’s a huge increase,” Dunn said. “I don’t agree with that. They need to enforce the water restrictions and fine people for watering their lawns. I see people watering their lawns late at night. I don’t get it. I don’t wash my car

or anything.”

Dunn also noticed that his home owner’s association dues have gone up. Now he believes he knows why: “It’s because of the water rates.”

Dunn said he doesn’t agree with the

rate increase and can’t understand why it was needed.

“Is it for salaries or what? They’re keeping the water restrictions, right?” he questioned. “I don’t get it. Will they drop the rates after the make all the money back?”

An increase in the city’s water rates will profoundly affect South End business owner Lamonte Brown. Brown owns South End Car Store, a detailing and window tinting outfit on South Boulevard. Because his water bill is going to go up, so will his prices.

“The increase in water is going to affect the prices because of what we have to pay,” he said. “I think that our city officials, in light of what they think the problem is, I think they are making the decision that they have

to make.”

The water department had said its triple A bond rating would suffer without an increase. The bond rating influences how much interest the city pays on utility projects — the better the rating, the less interest due on loans the city receives for those projects. Dulin said he doesn’t have enough information to believe such a forecast.

Dulin said he heard from hundreds of people who were against the rate increase. And after talking to the council members who were present at last week’s meeting, he thought the vote would’ve been closer. The rate increase passed in a 7-3 vote. Councilwoman Patsy Kinsey was absent.

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