Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Water Conservation/Rates Seemingly Radioactive

The City of San Angelo's reliance on water revenues remains as strong as ever.  On June 3rd City Council minutes stated:

General discussion was held on the City’s stronger conservation ethic culture, how water sales are tied to the budget and establishing other revenue opportunities, adjusting the rate structure, imposing stronger penalties at all stage levels for excessive use, providing more public education, reviewing the various trigger point time frames, considering forecasts or a broader set of factors to allow flexibility in implementing the stages. 

Motion, to remain in the Drought Stage Level (DSL)II until the first July meeting and to implement the watering schedule once every 7 days, with the understanding of creating a plan regarding the funding, was made by Council member Fleming, seconded by Council member Vardeman. A vote was taken on the motion on the floor. Motion carried unanimously. 

Anyone watching the meeting could clearly hear Councilman Fleming's intent that a revised ordinance be brought back to council July 1 for consideration.  Councilwoman Grindstaff asked that it be comprehensive and include incentives for citizens to install rainwater capture systems and water friendly landscaping, toilets and/or appliances.  The final aspect would be any associated water rate increases to instill the conservation ethic. I heard a three part package requested.

So what came back to Council weeks later?  Not much.  Council had to revert to the ordinance they no longer like, as a new one wasn't ready.  Water Chief Ricky Dickson acted like he needed to be reminded of several council discussions on this issue (June 3 Council meeting and June 10 Strategic Planning session):

"I need y'alls direction on what y'alls desire are, if there is any desire to continue with the excessive use fees we discussed.  Do you want to change that?"

"If we're going to talk rates, I'll need some direction.  I'll just open it up from there and let it go."
The document below contains information Council considered during their planning session.  Several of these relate to water usage and possible fee increases:

On July 1 City Council conducted considerable discussion on prior rate increases.  Dates mentioned include 2000/2001, 2006 and 2008.  Council acted like there hadn't been a water rate increase since '08.

The last two water rate increases occurred in 2007 and 2011.  The 2011 rate increase produced an extra $7 million in revenue the next year. Back to Ricky's comments:

"If I'm going to have to bring back an ordinance at the next meeting I'm going to need some direction."

I watched ex-Water Czar Will Wilde keep City Council at bay on this issue for years.  I'm hoping Ricky isn't pulling a Will.  Frankly, staff could show they've been listening by delivering Council's request or showing the timeline required to do so.  It can't be all new, every time.  Can it?

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