Bigger meter, bigger bill under new Park Ridge water rates
Updated: August 20, 2012 11:28AM
PARK RIDGE — Park Ridge is implementing a new fee structure for water usage, as expected, yet the adopted rates are drastically different than those initially endorsed by officials a month ago.
The City Council voted July 16 to accept a text amendment to a water- and sewer-rate proposal from recently seated 6th Ward Alderman Marc Mazzuca that lowers a fixed charge for homeowners in smaller and older homes by raising the fees of consumers with larger meters.
The revised rate schedule has meters sized 3/4-inch and smaller as its base, which will result in a bimonthly charge of $8.94 for most single-family homes.
The structure proposed from a commissioned study would have charged $16.53 for all accounts with meters 1-1/2-inches or less.
According to a five-page letter from Mazzuca supporting the amendment, inflated fixed water charges had forced those with 5/8-inch and 3/4-inch meters — representing four-fifths of Park Ridge water consumers — into subsidizing the costs of customers with bigger meters, namely schools, the Park District and businesses.
“It’s a better, more equitable allocation of fixed costs,” he said of the new rates.
“It’s the sensible way of doing things,” agreed 3rd Ward Alderman Jim Smith. “Some will pay more but 81 percent will be paying less.”
The original schedule had consumers with meters sized 4-inches and larger paying $165. The new fixed fee is $432.72 for 4-inch-sized meters; $865.43 for 6 inches; and $1,730.87 for 8 inches.
In addition, all water users will pay three separate fees per 1,000 gallons of water used. These fees, which cover the cost of purchasing water from Chicago, a Park Ridge rate and a sewer-usage fee, add up to $6.63 per 1,000 gallons. There is also a bimonthly minimum sewer charge of $2.98.
First Ward Alderman Joseph Sweeney and 4th Ward Alderman Sal Raspanti voted against the altered water structure, noting the increase would hit public schools and the parks the hardest.
Sweeney said the city received a letter from Park Ridge Park District Executive Director Gayle Mountcastle stating that the parks’ water costs would swell under the amended fee structure.
According to Christine Berman, the parks’ superintendent of business and finance, the Park District would pay an additional $28,224 per year based on its current usage totals under the amended plan.
The commissioned fee-structure recommendation would raise the park’s bill by only $11,624, she said.
“Taxpayers are going to pay for that,” Sweeney said.
The $45 residents would annually save as outlined by Mazzuca “are going to be taken up by the Park District,” he said.
The impact the rates would have on Advocate Lutheran General Hospital was another concern of aldermen.
According to the city’s director of Public Works, Wayne Zingsheim, the hospital has 25 water meters, most of which are 3 to 4 inches.
“Their rates are going to go through the roof,” Sweeney said. “They are one of the best participants of this city.”
Mazzuca contended: “It was my view that (customers with large water meters) were receiving a benefit that they shouldn’t have received in first place.”
During discussion Fifth Ward Alderman Dan Knight called on consultant Baxter & Woodman to comment on the principles for determining water rates. The engineering firm had recommended to the city the water-rate structure that had been under consideration the past month based on the results of a $9,500 study.
Company representative Chris Buckley, who also happens to be a Park Ridge resident, told officials establishing a base size and fee involves a certain level of subjectivity.
“It’s not that it’s wrong,” he said of the revised fee structure. “It’s just different.”
According to Buckley, Baxter & Woodman utilized a manual by the American Water Works Association in developing its recommendation and grouped together all meters 1-1/2 inches and smaller as directed by the city since some homes have the larger meter, particularly those required to have sprinkler systems.
Ray Oschger, a resident of Park Ridge for 30 years, installed a sprinkler system and 1-1/2-inch water line after tearing down and rebuilding his house five years ago.
“I’m really going to get hit with a major meter charge here for using very little water,” he said, noting he annually consumes as much as 6,000 gallons of water per billing period.
Water users will receive a mailing about the new rate structure and see the changes reflected on their late-August bills, Finance Director Alison Stutts said.
Seventh Ward Alderman Marty Maloney was absent from the meeting.
In other business, Park Ridge begins interviewing this week for its top administrative position, Mayor David Schmidt reported at the City Council meeting July 16.
The city had received 11 applications from people interested in serving as the acting city manager until the council hires a permanent replacement. Interviews had been scheduled with three candidates.
Schmidt said he seeks someone with management experience in both the public and private sectors, and that one candidate in particular had fit the bill, along with having a strong financial background.
He had considered bumping up Finance Director Alison Stutts to the interim role but, upon discussion, decided the maneuver would have a “detrimental effect” on the city’s budgeting and finances, he said.
Schmidt said he aims to present city officials with a recommendation for the city manager position by July 30.