By Sue Botos
Residents who want to keep their lawns green this summer will get a little help from the city.
As proposed by city officials, homeowners will have the opportunity to apply lawn watering credit to their sewer bill during the summer months. The move comes as part of the city’s overhaul of the sewer billing system, which was approved by City Council in July.
At a recent City Council committee session, Mayor Pam Bobst announced the city will give a credit of 1 mcf (1,000 cubic feet of water) to qualified residents for the months of June, July and August, when the majority of lawn and landscape watering takes place. She added that residents requesting more than the 1 mcf credit for the summer billing quarter will be required to have a second water meter.
“We looked at old water bills and a number of other factors, and we found that 1 mcf was the average for lawn watering,” Bobst noted.
She added that to qualify, residents must have a zero balance in their sewer account by March 31. Yearly usage should also top 5 mcfs, to avoid receiving a “free quarter,” and credit must be requested by April 30.
According to the revamped sewer billing plan, a flat fee of $38 per mcf is charged. Under the former arrangement, homeowners paid $5.16 per mcf plus a fixed quarterly rate ranging from $23.81 to $36.50. The new plan also did away with a $25 per quarter sewer rehabilitation fee.
The city is expected to make about $500,000 annually under the newly instated program, which actually shrinks the bills of low water users, those consuming 1 mcf per quarter, from more than $66 to $38 quarterly. Average users, those tallying about 2 mcfs per quarter, saw a slight increase from $71.82 to $76, with the brunt of the expense being felt by high-volume and commercial users. The rate of $38 per mcf, according to city officials, is still lower than that of other communities, such as Lakewood, which charged residents $45 per mcf in 2011.
The sewer billing system remake came in part due to mandates from the state and federal environmental protection agencies. Bobst had said that the U.S. EPA’s “findings and orders,” the result of a 2009 review, were not as harsh due to the foundation the city had already put in place as part of a 25-year sewer rehabilitation plan.