In addition to the OHNA meeting, The City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities is hosting a community meeting on the Cost of Service study for the water, wastewater, natural gas and stormwater utilities. Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012 at 6-7 p.m. DPU Operations Center Atrium 400 Jefferson Davis Highway (at Maury Street intersection) All interested […]
In addition to the OHNA meeting, The City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities is hosting a community meeting on the Cost of Service study for the water, wastewater, natural gas and stormwater utilities.
Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012 at 6-7 p.m.
DPU Operations Center Atrium
400 Jefferson Davis Highway (at Maury Street intersection)
All interested parties are invited.
Of course, the citizen’s petitioners who have protested the high minimum monthly service charge are watching this carefully. Here’s the an update from their perspective:
(One potential problem is if) The City trots out some sort of new lower tier or charity level for residents who are unable to pay the high minimum monthly service charge. While this may help the poorest of the poor, it sidesteps the rate reform that we have asked for. It would add additional complication and bureaucracy to OUR utility’s billing.
Another potential problem is if questions about water contracts with the counties are ignored. There is already a lot of concern about why the City is selling water to the surrounding counties so cheaply. There are also doubts about the City’s ability to collect payment for the existing contracts that were supposedly examined by the outgoing Councilperson Jewell.
While it’s good to attend meetings like this one tomorrow night, the utility officials may not reveal important information until they submit the budget. The public should be given all the information that has been given to the consultants. It is also important that a time line be established for the budget process. Otherwise, it’s possible that neither the Council or the public will get to comment until the time the Council get the Mayor’s budget, which I believe is in March sometime- Only then will Council and public meetings be held to discuss the entire budget and the rate structure will get short shift because the time left for the Council to approve it is limited. What are the various budget process dates? It would be good to bring this up at this meeting.
We must keep these matters in mind at the same time we stay on our message–the high minimum monthly service charge is ridiculous and unacceptable. We are asking for a revenue neutral approach that raises volume charges while lowering the service charges in a way that encourages conservation. Based on some of the data that we have received, our suspicion is that the high minimum residential rate is still being used to offset lower commercial rates, in effect subsidizing big businesses while gouging residents.
The big picture brings forth new objectives. The City utility has at least tacitly recognized our cause by bringing in more consultants to study the rates (mind you, at additional costs, something that we originally recommended against!). It’s important at this juncture that, not only are citizen concerns considered, but also that citizens are allowed to sit down with them to help identify and design the reforms needed. Discovering the data and being part of the reform process also leads to another petition/democracy effort that is at least as important as this water rate reform one to good government–The Richmond Open Government Project. If you have not done so already, I urge you to sign this petition also:
So, where is all of this headed? I am not sure what exactly the City utility officials will present to us tomorrow night- depending on what it is, we may want to wait to make a unified response. I am more hopeful that with a new City Council, we can get the water rates reform done. If not, there are some legal actions possible, though I am personally biased against them. I don’t think citizens should rely on courts for better government from OUR government. Still, we will see….