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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of October 16 - 22, 2002


Bellevue boosts 
water, sewer fees

Council undecided on 
plan to require meters

Express Staff Writer

Bellevue City Council members Thursday approved resolutions for the city to increase monthly fees for water and sewer services by 4.99 percent, effective January 1, 2003.

In two separate votes, the panel moved to increase monthly water-service charges from $15.75 to $ 16.53 per connection, and to increase monthly sewer-service charges from $17.75 to $18.63 per connection.

Neither vote was unanimous. Council members voted 5-1 to increase water fees, with Councilman Wayne Douthit dissenting. The panel later voted 4-2 to raise sewer fees, with council members Douthit and Parke Mitchell opposing the change.

Councilman Jon Wilkes, the panel’s appointee to oversee the city’s public utility services, presented the case for both fee increases. Wilkes said the city’s infrastructure is "beset with a multitude of problems," and that action must be taken to create a water- and sewer-budget surplus to cover future maintenance and improvement expenses.

"I certainly think it’s time," he said, noting that fees for either service had not been increased in several years.

Councilman Douthit firmly opposed the proposed water-fee increase, stating that he believed the city needs to pursue a comprehensive plan to manage the system.

"Raising the rates or lowering the rates isn’t going to make us have any more water," he said. "That’s the problem, we don’t have enough water."

After calling for the council to "get a game plan going," he said he was not altogether opposed to increasing rates, but wanted a broad discussion of the matter. "I think per-use is the better way to charge," he added.

Wilkes countered that he believed the 4.99 percent increase—the maximum the city can raise the fees without conducting a vote—would not place an unreasonable burden on residents. He estimated the water-fee increase would cost the average customer about $12 per year.

"I think that borrowing moneys from all the different places like we do has got to come to an end," he said.

Mayor John Barton voiced his support for the water-fee increase. "This really isn’t a shot in the dark," he said. "We’ve had many hours of discussion on this."

City Administrator Jack Stoneback noted that the city would bring in a mere $10,000 extra from the city’s 900-or-so water customers if the proposed rate hike was enacted.

"We’ve got to start somewhere," Councilwoman Tammy Schofield said. "As a council, this council takes so long to get things done… I am at least for starting the ball rolling.

"There are leaks, lots of little leaks, all over the city."

Schofield called a motion to adopt the fee increase shortly before the 5-1 tally in favor of the plan was counted.

The panel held only a brief discussion on the proposal to raise sewer fees. Douthit again opposed the plan, but again was in the minority when Wilkes made a motion to approve the rate hike.

Council members following the second vote conducted a lengthy discussion of a third proposal by Wilkes to require all future water taps installed in the city to be accompanied by water meters and water-meter vaults.

Wilkes said the city needs to "start acquiring data" on residential water use so the city can better formulate a plan to monitor—and possibly charge for—customers’ total water consumption.

"If we don’t start somewhere to do this, we might as well just put it to bed," Wilkes said.

However, four council members voted to table the proposal until their next meeting Oct. 24, at which they will conduct a broad discussion on managing and improving the city’s water system.



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