Sewer rates once again discussed by council

BURTON — A question about sewer-only rates by a city councilman prompted another explanation of last year’s revamp of water and sewer rates at the Feb. 1 council meeting.

Councilman Dennis O’Keefe asked the administration why sewer-only customers were not seeing the relief included in the Woodhill Group plan last fall, approved by the council in October.

As a sewer-only customer himself, O’Keefe said he was still seeing his usual bill $118.29 and questioned when that amount was expected to be reduced.

“Some months ago, we revamped the water schedule with regard to billing,” he said. “At the same time sewer was brought in there. If you were a sewer only, your bill was supposed to go down.”

Department of Public Works Director Charles Abbey reminded O’Keefe and the rest of the council that the immediate reduction for sewer-only customers was recommended by the Woodhill Group, who provided consulting services to the city during the revamping of the water and sewer rate schedule, but that the council did not go with that recommendation.

Abbey said because of the way the calculations were done by the Woodhill Group, it did not consider the city is billed two different rates by Genesee County for water-sewer customers and those who are sewer-only customers.

“(Woodhill Group) didn’t understand our process,” said Abbey. “We are billed two different rates from the Genesee County Drain Commission for sewer treatment. Sewer-only customers and sewer and water customers are at a different rate. We decided not to change that part…that fund is tracking in the right direction.”

Abbey added the city did make modifications on REUs (Residential Equivalent Unit) and reduced REUs from meter size, from Woodhills’ original plan, to help the water customers.

“Right now, it would be my opinion it would not be wise to (change the rates) because we are just now tracking in the black,” he said.

O’Keefe said he was not advocating changes, but said he thought an immediate reduction would be seen by sewer-only customers.

“I’m not concerned about the dollar amount on the thing. It was supposed to happen,” said O’Keefe. “I don’t remember that it was going to be deleted from that proposal presented by the administration months ago and council finally passed it. “

Councilman Tom Martinbianco said while the rates may have turned out the way they did, he thinks they should have been going in the other direction with the sewer and that didn’t happen.

Abbey said sewer-only customers would have seen short term relief for a couple years, but then would have watched as rates soared in the third, fourth and fifth years until the new rate plan.

“The way it is now, you’re going to see long term relief because we don’t have to raise rates for some time, because we’re still tracking in the black,” said Abbey. “You’d have got a couple years relief…then you’d have seen it climb at a faster pace. That’s what the problem was. You don’t see long-term relief from that, it’s not permanent.”

Martinbianco said the rates still aren’t guaranteed because everything hinges on what the Genesee County Drain Commission decides to do with rates in the coming years.

Abbey said he isn’t talking about new rates, just the equations in the methodology what would have only offered short term relief.

There was no further discussion on water and sewer rates and no action was taken.