Council proposes water rate changes, doing away with senior citizen rate
By LYNETTE SOWELL
During Tuesday night’s Copperas Cove city council meeting, the council again looked at the proposed rate changes and held a discussion with the city manager, making some changes in the process.
They came away with modifying the rate changes they proposed at the Thursday, August 3 workshop, still raising base rates but taking away the proposed “tiers” of volumetric water and sewer rates which go up the more gallons of water a customer uses.
City manager Andrea Gardner recommended the council take “baby steps” where changes to the fee structuring and rate increases were concerned.
The council also proposed doing away with the senior citizen rate after hearing an opinion from Dan Santee with the law firm of Denton, Navarro, Rocha, Bernal, Hyde & Zech which represents the City of Copperas Cove. Gardner said a citizen had complained about the rate structure for certain classes of citizens and that it was considered to be “unfair.” She also “implored” the council to listen to the legal opinion because other councils in the past would not.
Santee shared with the council the contents of a 2010 memo from the firm and explained that other cities like Copperas Cove had asked about rates for seniors, and Texas statute only allows for differentiation on rates in certain categories but it does not include any provisions for senior citizen rates.
“The situation has not changed; the law has not changed. There have to be equal standards for municipal owned utilities,” Santee said. “At the time this research was done, there is nothing that would indicate that age was one of the factors that could be considered for differentiation in rates. There is a statutory provision that allows for some delays in payments for seniors, and that is laid out in the code as well. What you cannot do is allow them to pay a different rate than other classes.”
Doing away with the senior citizen rate would bring in $300,000 in revenue to the water and sewer fund that was not previously received.
The council also proposed raising the base rates for both water and sewer across the board from $11 to $11.77 per month for those with 3/4” meters. For water volumetric rates per 1,000 gallons, the council proposed going from $4.05 to $4.10 per 1,000 gallons and from $5.67 to $5.90 per 1,000 gallons for wastewater/sewer. The drainage fee and solid waste collection fees will not increase.
The winter averaging and 8,000-gallon floor have both been removed from rate calculations for sewer costs to customers.
The cost for the average Copperas Cove utility customer, who uses 5,000 gallons monthly, would be $97.94 instead of $95.00 total at the present rates. Haverlah said 55 percent of the city’s utility customers use 5,000 gallons or less.
Also, instead of hiking the cost of a new ¾” water meter for residential sprinkler systems to $450 from $250, the council proposed a gradual increase, bumping to $350 on March 1, 2018, followed by an increase to the proposed amount of $450 by Sept. 1, 2018. The reason for the cost increase is that digital water meters cost more. The meters are not purchased from FATHOM but from a water meter manufacturer.
The council will not make its final decision to adopt any fee changes until its September 5 meeting.