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Archive for Thursday, October 5, 1995

COMMISSIONERS AGREE TO UP COST OF UTILITIES

October 5, 1995

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Increased rates for water and sewer service, if agreed to, go into effect Jan. 1.

City residents should brace for more expensive water and sewer service next year, but new residents could end up with even stiffer cost increases.

During a study session Wednesday, Lawrence city commissioners agreed in concept to boost current utility bills next year.

The average residential customer, who now pays $37.44 a month, would pay $39.62 monthly next year -- an increase of $2.18 a month, or 6 percent.

But three commissioners also cautioned that they would support the rate increases only if new developments picked up a larger share of utility costs.

Residential, commercial and industrial growth is forcing the city to increase rates, they agreed, so new customers likely should shoulder a larger burden than the city's current customers.

"Growth is causing us to put tons of money into this," Commissioner Jo Andersen said. "I have a real problem with increasing the fees for people who already live here ... and are not seeing an increase in service."

Commissioners Allen Levine and John Nalbandian agree. If the city needs spend $44 million to expand its current sewer treatment plant, they said, new residents and businesses likely should contribute more money than people already living here.

The form of such payments needs further review, they said, but the city's rate consultant recommends assessing each new homes a one-time charge of $690 for water and sewer service.

Commissioner Bonnie Augustine, a banker, took issue with the possibility of new fees. New homes in Lawrence already are too expensive without the city adding new fees to be passed from developer to homeowner, she said.

"Growth does pay for itself," Augustine said.

Nalbandian, however, asked that city staffers study possibilities for assessing even more so-called "impact fees," which are designed to charge new developments for the increased services they require.

Such services include police and fire protection, parks facilities and school construction.

"The time may be ripe to look at the entire issue of impact fees again," he said. "Let's bite the bullet and say yes or no."

Although nobody likes rate increases, Mayor Bob Moody said, Lawrence residents should be more than happy with the value of their water and sewer service.

"We're talking about $30 a month," he said. "People are getting a hell of a bargain."

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