A new water rate schedule may be put in place July 1, but city officials haven't yet decided what that schedule will be.
Although not required to hold a public hearing regarding the billing policy because it will be changed by resolution, the City Council took comments from residents Tuesday anyway. None of the residents favored either the present or proposed billing systems. The city mailed out a notice in its monthly newsletter telling residents the water issue would be discussed. But the notice arrived the day of the discussion giving them short notice, complained a handful of residents who attended the meeting.The newsletter included the proposed water billing policy but not the policy the city approved in July 1997 that was never put into place. That policy was repealed earlier this year.
Councilwoman Charlee Hanna brought both up at the meeting. Hanna, who is over the water policy issue, said neither one is better than the present system. But the council refused to take action and tabled the issue until June 30. Hanna said she won't be present at that meeting. "Just leave me enough money to pay the bills," she said.
The council has been considering a change in the billing policy for about a year and a half. The policy that was approved, then repealed, had padding in it, Hanna told the Deseret News.
Under the present water billing policy, users are billed a flat $20 a month for up to 10,000 gallons, then must pay 45 cents per 1,000 gallons up to 100,000 gallons. The rate increases to 65 cents per 1,000 gallons for usage exceeding 100,000 gallons. That policy is unpopular, Hanna said, because the high flat rate penalizes residents who use little water.
"You are paying to water somebody else's garden every time you turn on the water to brush your teeth," Hanna said. The cost to produce the water for just indoor use is about $2 per 1,000 gallons, she said. That amount is based on winter usage.
The proposed billing system would have residents pay a $6 base rate to cover the cost of administration plus $1.10 per 1,000 gallons. Hanna said that policy didn't include the cost of expanding the system, which should be done with impact fees. She said she arrived at the costs by dividing the water budget by the number of water meters in town. "There is no padding," she said.
But the rate would change every year under that proposal, she add-ed.
The billing policy the council repealed was based on water conservation, Hanna said. It would give small water users a discount. Under that system, users would pay a $10 monthly service charge plus 60 cents for up to 12,000 gallons, then pay $1 for every additional 1,000 gallons used. That policy would benefit small users while large water users would make up the difference, she said.
But it, too, was unpopular. Residents believed the city was taking advantage of those watering their yards, Hanna said.
Bob Evans, a member of the city utility committee, suggested the issue be sent back to that body for a vote, noting the committee had been working on the issue since it began. But Hanna said it was difficult to get the committee to focus on the billing policy and it wasn't set up to vote on it.
Other residents complained the issue was being rushed through without giving residents much of an opportunity to comment. Mayor Richard Young said more detail about the proposed changes would go in the next city newsletter.
Culinary water is used both indoors and outdoors in Mapleton, but a secondary water system just for outdoor use is being built. It won't be ready for at least another year. Secondary water may not be as low cost as some residents believe, Hanna said. But it will reduce the pumping costs associated with culinary water. Meanwhile, whichever policy the city goes with will reduce water costs for some users and raise it for others, Hanna said.