Congratulations to the task force that formed to look into Homer’s overflowing water-sewer billing system. About time to flush the toilet on the $45 service fees unfairly charged to renters this past year and get down to a fee structure that reflects what causes the high rates.
The task force now has a short list of recommendations the public may comment on. The next meeting is Tuesday at 5:15 p.m. There may be more tinkering required to make sure the new fee system is more fair than the current one. From this vantage, dropping down to a $5 a month fee for each apartment unit and monthly service fees to $18 makes more sense for that impacted group.
Another recommendation is to bill people for how much water they use and how much flushes down the drain. That means those who use more, pay more of their share of the cost. Bad news for the shower guzzlers who spend 20 minutes under water. And bad news to the City of Homer: another suggestion is charges to the general fund and the city for services used by the city, such as fire hydrants, needs to be changed.
Not all the details learned by the task force are fully vetted yet, with more discussion needed by the city and the city council to fully foresee what the fees will look like when lined up in black and white. But it’s encouraging the task force – toiling away for several months – have come up with possible solutions.
As it was, the water-sewer bills for tenants no doubt helps tremendously when it came to buoying up the much-discussed shortfalls in the water-sewer fund. Twelve months times $45, times the number of renters in town has to add up to a pretty bundle.
Last year, when the Homer City Council heard residential and business complaints about rate changes, particularly for apartments, the managers and owners showed up to protest. They bemoaned the new fees that they would have to incur or pass along to their tenants. In the end, of course, most of them passed those fees along to their renters even though such fees are considered a business expense and are likely a big help at tax write-off time.
Hats off to the task force for this start, hopefully, to the end of that. Residents Ken Castner (who served on a water-sewer task force in 1996-97), Bob Howard, Sharon Minsch, Lloyd Moore with Mayor Beth Wythe and Councilman Beau Burgess.
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