Manhattan The city of Manhattan is considering charging churches and schools for their use of city water after more than 100 years of free service.
On Tuesday, Manhattan city officials will discuss a resolution to appeal the policy that began in 1887 as part of a deed that gave the city land.
The city's water revenues haven't exceeded water utility operating costs since 2005, city officials said. Manhattan would have collected about $47,500 in 2009 if schools and churches paid for their water, said Jason Hilgers, assistant city manager.
The American Civil Liberties Union also contends that the policy violates the First Amendment by giving preference to religious organizations.
The policy began in 1887 when E.B. and Elizabeth Purcell deeded three tracts of land to the city for a public waterworks system, The Manhattan Mercury reported. One of the stipulations of the deed was that as payment for the land the city would forever, "supply free water to all churches and public schools and to the Young Men's Christian Association," in Manhattan.
According to the city, of the $47,500 that the city lost in revenues last year, about $29,000 would have been from schools and about $18,000 from churches.
Skyler Harper, head trustee of Westview Community Church, said the city should honor its agreement, and it shouldn't matter that the deal is more than 100 years old.
Churches and schools would like the city to consider the legality of repealing the agreement, Harper said. He doesn't think the city can repeal the agreement, but even if it can, he said it wouldn't be right.
"This is a matter of having integrity," Harper said.
If city officials approve the resolution, it would take effect in July 2011.