OUR VIEW: City should have planned for issues with water lines, pipes
The city of Mitchell could soon force you -- the residents of the city -- to pay about $75.60 more each year on your utility bill. The potential increase is to help pay to repair or replace aging water lines and old sewer pipes in the city. That'...
The city of Mitchell could soon force you - the residents of the city - to pay about $75.60 more each year on your utility bill.
The potential increase is to help pay to repair or replace aging water lines and old sewer pipes in the city. That's according to Terry Johnson, the city's deputy public works director, who spoke to the City Council on Monday night.
The council will vote on the proposed increase at its next meeting, which is scheduled for Dec. 15.
Johnson said Monday night the proposed increase would raise the average utility bill for residents by about $6.30 per month.
It's never good news when taxes, fees or bills go up, but we're especially upset about this proposal.
According to city code, homeowners in Mitchell are responsible for their sewer lines that connect to the city's pipes.
The code reads, "All costs and expenses incidental to the installation and connection of the sewer service shall be borne by the owner(s). The owner(s) shall indemnify the city from any loss or damage that may directly or indirectly be occasioned by the installation of the sewer service."
That means each Mitchell homeowner is on the hook for the cost of replacing the sewer line that connects to the city's main drain if there is a problem. Put simply, residents are responsible for everything from their house up to the main, and the city is responsible for the main.
What's especially interesting is that even if a homeowner's sewer is having problems underneath public sidewalks or public streets, the homeowner must pay to have the ground dug up, the pipe fixed and the sidewalk, curb and street replaced. The city doesn't help pay at all.
Remember, the homeowner is responsible for "all costs and expenses," the city code says.
So, shouldn't the city use money from its general fund to fix aging water lines and old sewer pipes, instead of sticking the residents with the bill, in the form of a rate increase?
At the council meeting Monday night, Council President Jeff Smith said, "We didn't wake up to an old city with old pipes. We should have been planning for this for quite a while." We completely agree.
That's a big issue that needs to be addressed moving ahead.
If the city expects its homeowners to somehow come up with enough money to fix their own broken sewer lines, the city should, too. The city's public works department should have been planning ahead and setting money aside to prepare for issues like this.
If the city is unwilling to help homeowners when a problem arises with homeowners' sewer lines, and especially when problems occur underneath public rights-of-way, why should residents be forced to fund the city's problems?
Ultimately, we know the city's residents, through taxes, pay for nearly all of the work that's done by city employees. But we wish the city would have saved enough money over time to use from its general funds to fix these problems.
Such a large, unexpected jump is frustrating.
That's why the city - not its residents through a surprise increase in utility rates - should be responsible for "all costs and expenses" to fix these water lines and sewer pipes.