Waukesha residents slam water conservation rates
Details of new structure draw some complaints
By Darryl Enriquez email@example.com
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Posted May 10, 2007
Waukesha - New rates to encourage water conservation were criticized Thursday for excluding heavy commercial and industrial users and characterized "as a smack down" for single- and two-family homeowners who are the target of a first-of-its-kind charging structure in the state.
About a half-dozen residents, at the joint Public Service Commission and Water Utility rate hearing, said that the new formula, known as a conservation rate structure, was long overdue for this city hampered for years by water troubles. Most speakers aimed their complaints at the details of the new structure.
An exception was Keith Butterfield, a retired mechanical engineer who attributes his wife's fatal cancer to radium in Waukesha water.
"The water utility has been diddling with this for at least 25 years. John Q. Citizen is going to pay, so he might as well stop squawking and pay up," Butterfield said.
The quarterly bill for an average homeowner would rise by 12.5% to $66.39 under the new rates.
Resident Gregory Balzer said the rate increases were too high, calling them a "smack down" to consumers. He asked that the utility include in its next round of quarterly bills a full explanation of the rate increases.
Peggy Steeno, administrative services manager for the utility, said rate information would be mailed after approval.
Resident James Bowman said the rate structure is flawed because it doesn't contain a low "life-line rate" that makes water affordable to the poor and those on fixed incomes. He questioned why the rates didn't include apartment buildings, since those structures are residential.
"I don't think the rate payers are interested in subsidizing apartment (building) owners," he said.
Laurie Longtine, a Waukesha County Environmental Action League member, questioned why industrial and commercial users were not folded into the conservation rate.
"They're water users," she said. "Where's the equity?"
Longtine suggested the creation of a citizen utility board to monitor utility policy and spending decisions, especially the hiring of lobbyists to advance the city's possible effort to use Lake Michigan as a new source of water, a move the league opposes.
If the city has any hope of acquiring Great Lakes water, it must show serious measures have been taken to conserve water use.