Source: Sherman Publications

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Discount on utility bills proposed for inactive, vacant village properties

by CJ Carnacchio

December 19, 2012

If an Oxford Village resident goes to Florida for the winter, should he or she receive a discount on their water/sewer bill and pay nothing for trash collection?

Some officials think it's a fair idea.

Others aren't so sure.

That's why citizens are being asked to give their input at a public hearing scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 8 in the village council chambers (22 W. Burdick St.).

For those residential properties that are inactive or vacant for short or long periods of time for whatever reason, village Manager Joe Young proposed giving them a $22.98 discount on their monthly water, sewer and rubbish bill. Young said it could be applied to commercial properties, too.

Normally, village residents are charged a base fee of $18.10 a month for water, which includes 2,000 gallons. Every 1,000 gallons after that costs $3.41.

Since the residence isn't utilizing any water when the owner's away for a few months, Young proposed deducting $6.82 from the water bill, which equals the 2,000 unused gallons. The resident would then be charged a monthly base rate of $11.28 as opposed to $18.10.

For the sewer bill, Young proposed discounting the $22.85 base charge by $4.25, the equivalent of 8,333 gallons.

As for the monthly residential garbage bill of $11.91, Young proposed eliminating it entirely for inactive/vacant properties. He noted once notified, the village's trash hauler, Rizzo Environmental Services, would not charge the municipality for those properties.

Combined, Young's proposals would reduce the normal residential water/sewer/garbage bill from the minimum $52.86 to $29.88.

In order to receive this discount, the property's water service would have to be shut off at the street. For this, the village would charge $20 to turn it off and $20 to turn it back on. That's a proposed reduction of the current $30 turn on/off fee.

Young proposed reducing the turn on/off fee because a cost analysis he did showed this service actually costs the village only $14.26 during normal working hours.

Water shut-offs and turn-ons that occur when overtime rates apply, such as nights and weekends, would remain $50.

Councilman Tony Albensi liked Young's proposal, particularly the part about discounting the water bill.

"If their water is shut off, why should they still pay for 2,000 gallons if they're not using any water?" he said.

Other council members felt differently.

"I think they ought to continue to pay," said Councilman Elgin Nichols, referring to the water portion.

"They should still pay a fee because there's a hydrant on the street that the fire department's going to use if their house catches on fire when they're gone," said Councilwoman Maureen Helmuth. "There's still a water tower that's going to keep pressure to the system. There's still certain capital costs."

Helmuth indicated she wouldn't be opposed to charging "something" for water as opposed to the full base rate.

But Helmuth and Nichols' comments seem to indicate they may have misunderstood Young's proposal.

The manager didn't suggest completely eliminating the water system's base fee for inactive or vacant properties.

He simply proposed reducing it from $18.10 to $11.28. Those customers would still be paying into the water fund to help maintain the system's infrastructure; they just wouldn't be paying for their unused 2,000-gallon monthly allotment.