City Council votes to postpone water usage rate change

FLUSHING — The City of Flushing is postponing a planned increase to its water usage/commodity charge rate after a discrepancy was discovered in last year’s authorized water usage charge rates.

At Monday’s meeting, Interim City Manager Clarence Goodlein informed the council that an approved increase of the 2020 water usage/commodity charge from $7.82 to $7.90 did not happen during the fiscal year, causing the city to lose approximately $5,500 in revenue for its water fund.

Flushing Mayor Joseph Karlichek then recommended for Flushing City Council to postpone action on changing the water usage/commodity charge rate until after a public hearing on water rates is held later this fiscal year. Council members approved the motion unanimously.

Last month, the city council approved future rate increases for the city’s sewer and water usage charges, including an increase in water commodity/usage rates from $7.90 per 1,000 gallons to $10.10 per 1,000 gallons over the next five years.

In a memo to the city council, Goodlein took responsibility for the delay to the authorized rate increase in 2020.

“Recently, I was reminded of the discrepancy between the authorized City water usage/commodity charge of $7.90/1000 gallons and the usage/ commodity charge of $7.82/1000 gallons that has been billed since July 1, 2020,” he said. “The fault for this discrepancy lies squarely and solely upon my forgetfulness and my failure to return this matter to City Council for discussion at its Aug. 10, 2020 meeting.”

Goodlein explained that shortly after the council voted to raise water usage rates from $7.82 to $7.90 in May 2020, he had intended to request a moratorium on the rate increase. He said that he wanted to propose a delay to the rate increase to help ease the financial burden on residents and businesses in Flushing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While it was my intention to make this request at the July 2020 City Council meeting, I was unable to do so because that City Council meeting was cancelled due to lack of a quorum,” he said. “Subsequently, this matter became lost in other work and projects that I was performing.”

Goodlein said that his request to temporarily suspend the rate increase never made it to the city council and that no notice was sent to the deputy city clerk to begin the water usage/ commodity charge rate increase for June 15, 2020 – Sept. 15, 2020 that had been approved.

In defense of Goodlein, Mayor Pro Tem Edward Sullivan said that the error should have been realized earlier by him and his fellow council members.

“Mr. Goodlein doesn’t have to take the responsibility for this alone,” he said. “We (the council) apologize for not catching this sooner. In retrospect, though, it was probably good that we didn’t raise people’s water rates during the pandemic last year. So, from that aspect, I don’t see it as a mistake.”

The council’s decision to postpone changes to the water usage/commodity rate will not effect authorized changes to the city’s sewer rates or to quarterly water fees over the next five years.