KLSWA's Recent Rate Increase Brings Questions, Concerns From Douglas City Officials
Douglas city officials announced at Monday’s meeting that they, along with some of their constituents, have questions about the recent water and sewer rate increase. They are calling on Kalamazoo Lake Sewer & Water (KLSWA) Authority Manager Daryl VanDyke to come discuss the issue with them.
Other members, like Douglas Mayor Pro Tem Martha Hoexter, who is the treasurer of the KLSWA, pointed out the rate spike was part of the latest budget process and despite the rate hike, it still marks the cheapest utility bill area locals pay for.
The wastewater treatment plant implemented the new rates this month and they will show up on customers’ April bill.
KLSWA representatives reported that an average household (a two-person occupancy using an average of 100 gallons per day, totaling 6,000 gallons per month) would see their monthly bill increase by $5.20.
Douglas City Council Member Neil Seabert spurred the discussion, saying the water and sewer rates came suddenly and unexpectedly.
Referring to VanDyke’s February 23 memo to the KLSWA board in which he asserts the rate increase was necessary due in part to an increase in operational costs as well as lost revenues resulting from the closing of the former Haworth manufacturing plant, Douglas Council Member Gerald Schmidt said, “If somebody buys that building and uses it, I would like to see a decrease in the rate.”
While some of Schmidt’s colleagues responded with chuckles and laughs at his comment, Hoexter’s tone was a bit more formal and serious, arguing that put together, the base rate and the user rate which combined make up KLSWA’s rates, were not as costly as Internet or phone services, utilities “which you can live without.
“This is the cheapest utility you will pay and it is something you can’t live without,” she noted, adding, “There has not been an increase—no assessment, no nothing—in the last three years.”
KLSWA representatives have reported that the former Haworth facility used to contribute, before its closing, anywhere between three percent to six percent of KLSWA’s annual revenues.
Douglas City Council Member Greg Harvath said he was in the real estate business and that other markets in other areas of the country (e.g, the states of Washington and California) have a cheaper base rate than that of KLSWA.
KLSWA’s base rates vary according to meter size (the main water supply line coming into the house) per user, so that the rate for a 5/8” meter is $19.10 for sewer and $11.60 for water.
A meter size of 1” equates to a $47.75 base rate charge for sewer and $29.90 for water, and so on.
“There are many constituents that want to know how it (the base rate) is calculated,” said Harvath.
Douglas Mayor Jim Wiley concurred with colleagues in saying he wanted the KLSWA manager to come to speak to council to talk about the rate increases at the next council meeting on March 16.
“We need a definition of base rate, what goes into factoring the base rate,” said Wiley.
As for the usage fee, it is computed by every 1,000 gallons used: $2.65 for sewer and $1.85 for water.
Customers who don’t fit the typical category (e.g., businesses, large families, water-only customers) are encouraged to go online at: www.klswa.com to get more information on the fee schedules and answers to other questions.