Assembly approves hike in water, sewer rates

$1.628 million transferred from JDHS renovation to new Valley high school budget

Posted: Tuesday, October 14, 2003

The city Assembly raised sewer rates 39 percent and water rates by 19 percent after members debated alternatives to cushion the blow to consumers.

The flat residential and commercial sewer rates will go up from $39.50 to $54.91 per month. The flat residential and commercial water rates will increase from $19 to $22.61 per month. Those rates take effect Dec. 1 and will continue through July 1, 2007, when the city starts its new fiscal year, Public Works Director Joe Buck said. After July 1, 2007, the city will reevaluate the water and sewer rates, he said.

The Assembly passed the new rates by a 6-3 vote. Voting in favor of the increases were Assembly members Randy Wanamaker, Jeannie Johnson, Merrill Sanford, Ken Koelsch, Jim Powell and Mayor Sally Smith. Voting no were Marc Wheeler, Dale Anderson and Stan Ridgeway.

Wheeler suggested the Assembly be "cautious" and proposed the rates be increased to $21.66 for water and $54.14 for sewer. Wheeler's amendment included rates suggested for fiscal year 2004 under multi-year alternative rate plans.

Anderson suggested the Assembly adopt the full two-year implementation plan for new water and sewer rates.

"We are going to set a precedent tonight to collect more money from taxpayers to cover costs," Anderson said.

His amendment was defeated 4-5 with Johnson, Koelsch, Powell, Wanamaker and Smith voting no. Johnson wants the city to set up an advisory committee for water and sewer service to better manage the rates in the future.

In another close vote, the Assembly voted 5-4 to transfer $1.628 million from the Juneau Douglas High School renovation project to the new Mendenhall Valley high school budget. Voting no were Anderson, Johnson, Koelsch and Smith. Some Assembly members argued they should not exceed a previous project budget of $60.8 million, while others said the project will cost more later if it is derailed.

"It's a sad day in Juneau when we don't do what the voters told us," Anderson said.

Wheeler retorted by saying the money is better spent on classrooms in a Valley high school instead of a new parking area for students attending Juneau Douglas High School.

In other news, the Assembly unanimously agreed to give The Glory Hole a $10,000 matching grant to help the non-profit offset a $22,000 deficit. The city would allocate the money with the hopes The Glory Hole would match the amount.

The Glory Hole does not have to raise the match to get the city allocation, City Manager Rod Swope said. The city match will hopefully motivate people to donate money to the group, Powell said. The money for The Glory Hole would be replenished with tobacco sales tax revenue the city is slated to collect next year, city officials said. Two tobacco tax increases passed in the Oct. 7 election will raise about $300,000 in additional revenue.

Glory Hole Executive Director Jetta Whittaker asked for $20,000 from the city in an Oct. 13 letter to Finance Committee Chairman Powell. The organization is saving about $6,000 in wages through Dec. 31 after it decided to close between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The Glory Hole needs about $10,000 a month to stay open 24 hours a day. Its total budget is $161,000. It operates a 38-bed emergency shelter, serves 200 meals a day and provides basic shelter for the city's homeless population.

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