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Council still considering dropping snowbird water rates
UNION — The Union City Council may be a small step closer to reducing or eliminating the vacation rates the city charges for water service to people who are out of town for extended periods.
Should the council reduce or eliminate water rates for snowbirds and others gone for extended periods, the process would take considerably more than 60 days.
“This would be a big step. It is not something that is minor,” said Union Mayor Bill Lindsley during a council work session Tuesday.
Council members said that the water rates charged for snowbirds and others who are gone for extended periods could not be eliminated or reduced unless there is a change in the water service fee structure. A change in the rate structure would be necessary to make up for the $32,000 the city would lose, Lindsley said. Changing the rate structure would require the passage of a city ordinance, a process which requires more than 60 days.
Presently, people who are out of town for extended periods pay at least $40 a month in total fees for water service. This also applies to homes which are vacant because the owner is hospitalized, the property is in foreclosure or between renters.
Lindsley and members of the council said on Tuesday they do not want to make a decision regarding cutting or eliminating water rates for vacant homes until they are provided with additional data on water usage in Union. The information the councilors requested will allow them to determine how rates could be restructured to allow the city to make up for the $32,000 it would stand to lose.
One option the councilors are considering is changing the rate structure, so that additional heavy water users will pay more.
Presently, all residents using up to 1,000 cubic feet of water a month pay about $27 and about $9 for each additional 1,000 cubic feet of water.
Councilor Doug Osburn is proposing that the council consider reducing the quantity of water residents can receive for a basic fee before they begin paying more for additional usage. For example, the city might charge the same rate for everyone using 300 cubic feet or less a month but more to those surpassing this usage total.
Osburn emphasized that he would not propose such a change until he has more extensive information on water usage by Union residents.
Councilor Sue Briggs said she is worried changing the rate structure in this manner could cause a problem for the city.
“Flexible rates would create more work for an already overworked staff,” Briggs said.