October 25, 2014

Public utility debate continues in Gardner

Rhonda Humble
Publisher
Two years ago, Gardner’s water and wastewater utilities were underfunded by $32 million, according to report from the BPU Exploratory Committee, and while residential rates have risen, the council has yet to take definitive action on correcting flaws pinpointed in the February 2012 report.
This year’s water and wastewater budget included an 8 percent water rate increase and an 11 percent wastewater rate increase. The rates cost the average family of approximately 2.5 people an additional $8.59 per month, or $103.
The BPU Exploratory report, which recommended the city build upon the success of the (then) independent Electric Utility Board, concluded, “This committee strongly believes that continuity of independent, non-political leadership is important to the success of Gardner’s W & WW utilities.”
Last month, due to an attorney’s opinion that the electric utility ordinance was flawed and that the board operated outside state statute, the city council voted to make the EUB an advisory board, and board members were asked to remain through the end of their terms.
Discussion regarding how to fund the water, wastewater shortfall continues with ongoing plans to increase rates by up to 12 percent each year for the foreseeable future.
Reasons for the water and wastewater underfunding highlighted in the 2012 report list several concerns:
• Past management decisions having a negative impact on the continued viability of the utilities
• A “generous” industrial rate for entities that use more than 40,000 gallons per year, such as the subsidy provided USD 231. According to the report, “Subsidies distort the actual costs of providing utility services. This makes a fair comparison between Gardner’s utility costs and the costs of neighboring municipal utility service providers difficult or impossible and impedes transparency of rate development.”
• Rate studies have been untimely and rate changes inadequate.
• Utility service revenues have been used for non-utility purposes.
• Deferred maintenance. When timely maintenance is not performed, the deferred costs of repair  is increased.
• Lack of experience of council members in operating a utility business model. Decisions made for political purposes rather than sound business reasons.
Mayor Chris Morrow, at the March 3 city council meeting,  provided an informational handout regarding a “separately created Utility Department,” and asked members to review the information and be prepared to make suggestions.
The mayor’s recommendation was, “In conjunction with the Public Works Department, or a separately created Utility Department, the city council should move to form an advisory commission. Said advisory commission will study, deliberate, build consensus, and make recommendations to the city council . . . . consistent with utility industry best practices regarding the safe, economical, efficient and business like operation and management of the city electric, water, and wastewater utilities.”
Members of the BPU Exploratory Committee included: Lee Moore, Jim Ross, Mike O’Connor, Tom Mertz, Norm Schutte, Don Cooper, Mark Baldwin, Lance Boyd, Kristy Harrison and Morrow.

Comments

  1. Judith Rogers says:

    Doesn’t help when the Mayor, City Council and City Administrative Staff support and approve for Gardner water to be sold to New Century at HALF THE COST THE CITIZENS PAY The 11% increase you received this month on your sewer costs is at least in part or perhaps fully due to our politicians and bureaucrats voting to go in with Edgerton on THEIR needed sanitation or sewer plant wherein again the citizens are called upon to take care of the thieves who don’t want to pay their full taxes and meet their responsibilities for the needs of the community.

    Actions of some of the very people on this BPU Exploratory Committee have time and time again put the citizens at the bottom of the totem pole and in numerous ways resulting in many adverse affects and they don’t even bat an eye at the city breaking the law – that is my opinion. You have got over 30% of the properties here in Gardner, the largest percentage of the properties, which most are getting their fraudulent farm appraisals which keeps thousands and thousands of tax dollars from coming into our city bank account, schools and all the rest of the taxing entities, and this has been going on for year after year after year after year and on and on and do any of those so-called public servants, who citizens pay so well and give them every fringe benefit available, you have elected or hired, lift a finger to stop that corruption – certainly not to my knowledge and I have been on their sorry rearends about that issue for years. And then to put the cherry on top of the cake you have these same people giving benefit districts to these thieves who are getting these wrongful farm appraisals and making the citizens co-signers on those bonds and those jerks are paying TOTAL tax bills of perhaps $3 or $4 a year with the city maybe getting 62 CENTS a year in taxes. Then the jerks don’t pay their taxes nor their assessments and you have the people having to make those bond payments while we have to try to get money out of the lowlifes. General obligation bonds are issued for those benefit districts and when all is said and one, the citizens have to stand behind paying those bonds if these jokers don’t pay their assessments and taxes will have to be increased for ALL ENTITIES living or doing business in Gardner in order for the city to meet its debt service requirements. Two years ago you had 4 out 9 benefit districts delinquent in paying their taxes/assessments – that is almost half of them. And the delinquencies go back farther than 2012 on some of these benefit districts and I know that by looking at the tax bills and seeing if and when the taxes and assessments were paid.

    The problems go much deeper than just handling utility costs and if citizens would just pay just a little bit of attention, they would know that and they would know they have many Gilhaus type problems within their city government and sadly they have helped build their Gilhaus type problems by their apathy and ignorance or perhaps many citizens have also lost their moral compass resulting in the terrible cronyism government entities they are now living with and having to pay for.

  2. Jerry L Kellogg Sr says:
  3. Judith Rogers says:

    Lots of ways to cheat on paying your taxes and the big boys have come up with some real good schemes and loopholes in the last 30 years or so and it gets worse by the day and making average citizens’ tax bills higher by the day.

    Here is what Billy Graham said TODAY about the issue……….this article needs to be printed every day in my opinion.

    *******************************************************************************************

    BILLY GRAHAM
    If Christ paid the taxes he owed, why should we do anything less?
    March 13
    By BILLY GRAHA

    DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: I was disturbed by what you wrote a few weeks ago about not cheating on our taxes. I agree we have a responsibility to pay taxes and all that, but as far as I’m concerned, the government is just going to waste our money anyway, so what difference does it make if I cheat a little bit? — K.G.

    DEAR K.G.: Have you ever asked yourself what would happen if everyone had your attitude? Over time, tax revenues would go down, and even essential services would have to be cut. Eventually, taxes would have to be raised to make up for the lost revenue.

    But the main reason the Bible commands us not to cheat on our taxes is because God wants us to be honest and above board in everything we do. If you cheated someone out of what you owed them, you’d rightly be branded a thief. Why is it any different if you owe money to a company or to the government?

    After all, Jesus paid the taxes he owed; why should we do any less? When asked if he intended to pay a certain tax that he owed, Jesus immediately handed over the required coin (taken miraculously from a fish caught by one of his disciples). He knew it might be wasted or used in wrong ways, but that didn’t keep him from fulfilling his obligation. He said, “Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours” (Matthew 17:27).

    I can’t help but wonder, however, if the real issue you face isn’t simply taxes, but your whole attitude toward money — and toward God. Don’t let greed, or cynicism, or anything else rule your life. Instead, submit your life to Christ, who alone is worthy of your allegiance.

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