- Written by Mike Martin
City Hall seeks big jumps in sewer, water, electric, rubbish, parking, rental compliance, vaccinations, and more
COLUMBIA, 8/6/12 (Beat Byte) -- Columbia City Council members Monday night will consider one of the largest packages of fee and rate hikes in recent memory.
Ten (10) items on the Council's August 6 agenda increase sewer, water, and electric rates; sports and ARC admittance fees; add new fees to park and recreation activities; and boost health department vaccinations and STD clinic visit fees; rental unit compliance fees, and building permit fees.
Downtown merchants are hit especially hard, with sizeable hikes in rubbish disposal, health department inspection fees, and employee parking in City Hall's garage monopoly, all on the recent heels of higher CID-related sales taxes.
Downtown businesses, from restaurants and retail to offices and even churches, will pay 11% more for garbage pickup. Restaurant and tattoo parlor owners face a double whammy: health department inspection fee hikes of roughly 16% for restaurants and 50% for parlors to go with their 11% garbage collection fee increases.
Parking in Garagezilla and Columbia's many Garagezilla-junior garages will increase on average $55/yearly, jumping from $660 to $715.
Health department clinic visits, from STD exams to vaccinations, will jump a whopping 30-50%. Coupled with utility service connection boosts and rental occupancy fee hikes that disproportionately affect transient renters, the increases will hit lower and middle income residents particularly hard.
Property managers face 30-50% hikes in inspection and rental occupancy fees, while all residents -- both rental, home, and business owners -- will face increases averaging 250% in some utility fees. A fee to reconnect water or electric service outside normal business hours, for instance, will jump from $30 to $75 for residential customers, a 150% increase; and from $30 to $150 for "all other customers," a 400% increase that will impact small businesses. During normal business hours, "all other customers" will see reconnect fees jump from $15 to $50, a 233% jump.
Electric rate hikes average 9-17% per month, with base customer charges jumping from $7.20 to $8.45, and energy charges jumping 1.5% to 8%. Residential electric payers faced with double digit hikes will subsidize industrial payers, who face much smaller 0.5% electric rate hikes.
Meanwhile, city public works superintendent Bill Weitkemper says residential water bill mis-classifications and ongoing unfair subsidies for large users negate the need for yet more water and sewer rate hikes.
"Sewer and water rates should not be increased," Weitkemper told city manager Mike Matthes, Mayor Bob McDavid, and Council members last week. "In 2011, the city's residential customers discharged only 59% of sewer but paid 67% of the costs." And by ignoring the billing ordinance, the city loses $812,000 in water fees.
Ironically, the 5% rate increase would raise $870,000, Weitkemper said, putting the burden on rate payers to make up for City Hall's own negligence.
Parking fee hikes
Parks and Rec fee hikes
Downtown rubbish removal fee hikes
Rental Occupancy fee hikes
Immunization, STD testing, clinic visits, restaurant and tattoo parlor fee hikes
Water and electric reconnect and service fee hikes
Sewer rate hikes
Electric rate hikes
Water rate hikes
Building permit fee hikes