City Officials Waiting on Water and Sewer Rates

     Homer city officials have delayed a vote that would change the rate structure for the city’s water and sewer use. Action was expected from the city council during its meeting last week, but there was enough uncertainty to postpone.

     The basic idea for the new rate structure has been a “cost-causer, cost-payer” model. Under the plan, most users will pay a water rate of .011 cents per gallon. That rate will then be combined with an $18 “Metered Service Fee.”

     The model for the sewer rates is similar. Most customers would pay a rate of 1.3 cents per gallon under the proposed plan. City officials have said they also expect most customers to see a reduction in their monthly bill. The changes would affect apartments especially. The current per-unit charge is $45 a month and the proposed fee would be reduced to $5 a unit.

     Some users would see additional fees, though. That includes those with lift stations, like the Homer Spit, and restaurants could see higher rates as well because of the demand on sewer treatment. Officials are calling that fee the biological-oxygen demand, or BOD fee. One business in particular that will be hit hardest with the new rate structure is the Land’s End Resort. 

     Owner John Faulkner is not happy with the changes. He said he understands the point of the plan is to increase a sense of fairness in the system, but said he doesn’t think this is the way to do it.  

     “I believe there’s no real public mandate for change. I haven’t seen it. I haven’t heard it. I’ve attended every single task force meeting since November. I believe that the cost-causer, cost-payer model is not consistently applied,” he said.     

     Faulkner said he does not want the city to move forward with the new plan. The resort’s chief financial officer is Josh Garvey. He said the current water-sewer bill for Land’s End is roughly $78,000 a year and he expects an increase of $30,000 under the proposed rate structure.

     “We seriously have to re-evaluate our operations and if we’re even able to sustain them year round,” he said. 

     Officials decided to postpone action on the resolution until the June 24 meeting. At the end of the council meeting, Council Member Bryan Zak said he wanted to vote down the measure.

     “I could vote against it right now and continue the rates that we currently have. Because I think it’s going to take a lot longer. I know that we talked about amendments and that’s why we continued it, but I don’t think it can be done two weeks from now either. So that’s why I would have voted against it tonight. We can work on this a little more and do it right rather than push something through that I’m not really comfortable with,” Zak said.

     The public will again have an opportunity to comment on the rate structure at the next meeting.