Sewer availability fee refuted again at City Hall

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Another Lewisburg resident wants a policy on sewer service fees changed and he's taking it to the Water and Waste Water Board meeting Thursday afternoon.

Don L. Sullivan, 67, of Verona-Caney Road has read news stories about city resident Bob Lowe's recurring appearances at Lewisburg Council meetings, so he called Lowe and spoke to the council last week.

"I'm not trying to do anything other than get the water board to send it to the council so the council can vote on it," Sullivan said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

Procedurally, councilmen can't vote on anything regarding the operation of the utility other than rates and borrowing money, but only if the water board sends a resolution to the council, according to explanations at City Hall and the utility office on Water Street.

Lowe and city resident Brenda Davis have been the most outspoken on the issue rooted in what's seen as the illogical charge for sewer service when there's no connection and a water customer has an operational septic tank. Other water and sewer utilities charge the sewer fee that's been justified as appropriate. The payment is said to be for the availability of the service because the sewer is close enough for a connection.

Councilmen have made two attempts to get the utility to vote on a resolution to stop the practice or change it so that a minimum fee is charged instead of an amount based on water usage. Other water and sewer system customers' sewer bills are charged that way on a theory that the volume of the water coming in is the amount flushed or drained from the house.

Sullivan's wife, Ann, points out that her 90-year-old mother, Alma Harris, lives next door and waters her garden plants with tap water.

She therefore pays a higher sewer fee when there's no treatment of that additional volume of water used, but not flushed.

Sewer service here is charged at a rate of 150 percent of the cost of water.

"It's a service that's we're not getting any benefit from," Don Sullivan said. "It's not fair to have a septic tank and then pay again when you're not using something."

Don Sullivan plans to be at the water board meeting at 4 p.m. Thursday.

"When we first came ... here, we were told there was nothing we could do about it," Ann Sullivan said, now believing that change might be possible.

"We realize the city won't pay it back," she said and her husband adds, "But they could go forward."

Some councilmen have called the current fee system as unfair. Others, including Councilman Hershel Davis, chairman of the water board, have refrained from extensive comment on the issue.