The switch to monthly sewer billing dominated discussion at Thursday’s Rules and Regulations committee meeting. Switching from quarterly billing has proven to be a challenge for city officials, as the current minimum rate structure is not conducive to the change.
The city council has discussed the change for years, citing the need for steady revenue streams. Council members also feel that a large quarterly bill can be overwhelming and that monthly bills could ease the financial burden.
“We’re giving them 90 days to pay their bill,” at-large councilwoman Jennifer Graf said. “We need revenue coming in faster.”
Currently, sewer billing is based on consumed units in increments of 100. The minimum bill for residents is 500 units.
Rules and Regulations committee members agreed the ideal way to structure the monthly billing cycle would be to charge for 200 units each of the first two months in a quarter, and use the last month as a variable.
This would mean that customers who consumed the minimum or less than the minimum would only be billed for 100 units. Residents who exceed the minimum would pay for the difference.
However, the committee was informed that such a billing structure would be impossible due to the way consumption information was processed. The first two months of each billing cycle are estimates based on previous consumption.
Committee members were presented with an option of making the minimum billing 600 units or 300 units, to have constant minimums each month. Committee Chairman Mike Kearney said he was frustrated with the inability to get specific information about average consumption.
“We’re going to make a decision without adequate information,” Kearney said.
Committee member Mark Vulich suggested making the minimum 300 units, to prevent sewer rate increases. Any revenue shortfalls could be addressed with rate changes in the future, City Attorney Jeff Farwell said.
The decision to bill a minimum of 300 units per quarter, or a minimum of 100 units per month, was sent to the committee of the whole
In other action, the council:
• Discussed proposing an ordinance limiting bus use on the roads in Eagle Point Park.
Committee members said roads in the park are asphalt or dirt. Roads constructed in this manner break down following repeated crossings by large vehicles. Committee members want to limit tour buses and other large vehicles from entering the main parking lot.
The committee decided to gather more information on what weight limit to put on vehicles, as they did not want to prevent vans or small buses carrying the elderly or disabled from using the park roads.
• Listened to a suggestion from Farwell to increase the city’s liability coverage from $1 million to $2 million at public events.
The current guidelines have been in place since 1988, making them outdated. Farwell cited incidents like the one that occurred in Bellvue during the 2010 July 4 celebration as reasoning for the increase.
On July 4, 2010, a horse marching in an Independence Day parade became startled, and rampaged through downtown Bellevue. Several bystanders, including many children, were injured and one woman was killed.
“(The current liability coverage) wouldn’t even come close to covering that,” Farwell said.
The committee agreed to send the matter to the committee of the whole for further discussion.