We’ve said it before.
The only way to get out of a hole is to stop shoveling. Yet Gardner continues to dig deeper by underfunding infrastructure, such as water and wastewater. In early 2012 it was estimated that utility was underfunded by $32 million, and that shortfall grows at a rate of 6-8 percent per year.
The city council has been wringing their hands and discussing what to do about the city’s municipal utilities for years. Probably even decades.
But the discussion begins again.
Last week Mayor Chris Morrow provided council members an informational handout and recommendation to form a joint utility advisory committee. We appreciate his effort to get the ball rolling, but we’ve seen this all before.
In fact, Morrow was one of the members of the city’s BPU Exploratory Committee which in February 2012 recommended a board – similar to the then-independent Electric Utility Board – oversee electric, water and wastewater. Other members of the BPU Exploratory Committee were Kristy Harrison, council member, and newly appointed EUB board member Lee Moore.
Because the ordinance for the EUB was found to be flawed, the independent board was converted to an advisory board. That’s understandable, the city must work within the parameters of state statute.
What’s less understandable is why – in the nearly two years since the BPU Exploratory Committee report – no steps have been taken to stop the bleeding of funds from water and wastewater. The only “plug” has been to raise the rates for ratepayers by 8 and 11 percent, with ongoing plans to continue increases of up to 12 percent every year in the foreseeable future.
Subsidies for large water users, such as USD 231, continue to distort actual water costs for the average ratepayer, and funds continued to be transferred out of water and wastewater to cover shortfalls in other areas such as the parks department.
. . . . . . And we’ll say it again.
Quit talking and take pro-active, concrete steps to properly manage and fund our municipal utilities.