Millwood residents voiced opposition to impending water rate increases during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.
In May, the council voted to increase water rates 14 percent beginning July 1 to offset a deficit in the water fund. The increase raises the base rate to $20 per month per first 1,000 cubic feet of water consumption. Overages will be 20 cents per 100 cubic feet for 1,000 cubic feet to 2,000 cubic feet per month, and 30 cents per 100 cubic feet for amounts exceeding 2,000 cubic feet per month.
Longtime resident Jim Youngman led the discussion, asking the council to re-evaluate the rate structure based on the size of individual properties. Youngman, who owns more than an acre, is in the process of turning his property into an agriculture-based business, selling blueberries.
“Are we to be discriminated against and carry the burden of this need for more revenue?” Youngman said. “I think that’s very unfair.”
Councilman Kevin Freeman responded saying the council needs to come up with some way of differentiating land use.
Scott Palmer, who owns just under an acre, raised the concern of overage charges associated with larger property owners who don’t produce any agriculture.
“This is not a slight water increase,” said Palmer, who said he uses 4,000 cubic feet of water per month May through September. “At least consider leaving it at 20 cents per 100 cubic feet for overages. July and August are going to be ugly for anybody trying to water trees and what not.”
Karen Winsper, a Millwood resident since 1986, raises sheep on her property.
“It’s not just the agriculture, it’s the young families that are out there this is affecting,” Winsper said about the increase. She said that with overages, she’ll pay 65 percent more on water than last year. “It needs to be taken into consideration when we’re trying to water these big properties.”
Freeman agreed that the concerns were valid. He said the council will direct city staff to research alternatives.
“I think based on comments tonight we will direct staff to look at what we have and potentially look at some ideas for agriculture irrigation,” Freeman said. “I can’t say where that will lead us.”
As Mayor Dan Mork was absent from the meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Richard Schoen opened the floor for a public hearing to consider Millwood Presbyterian Church’s proposal to vacate an alley between Dalton and Euclid avenues. The church is planning a $1 million expansion on the south side of the church, which the council approved last month.
After closing the hearing, the council voted unanimously to transfer ownership of the property to the church. The city will receive $1,000 for the property.
Luke Tolley, of Sustainable Works, introduced the “nonprofit contractor” as an organization that provides energy assessments and retrofits for homeowners. He said the organization wants to partner with the city and focus on Millwood residents for the next six months.
The council asked for a resolution outlining the partnership at next month’s meeting.
Tolley said the first 20 Millwood residents who sign up for the program get a special rate of $95 for an energy assessment. The rate after is $195.
Sustainable Works hires local contractors to perform projects such as air sealing, insulation, heating, hot water, windows and solar. A kick-off event will be July 19 at 6 p.m. at the Crossing Community Youth Center, 8919 E. Euclid Ave.
For more information on Sustainable Works, call (509) 443-3471 or visit www.sustainableworks.com.