This is the time to give feedback

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

On Monday, the Cassville City Council met with Larry VanGilder, of the Missouri Rural Water Association, to hear the results of a water and wastewater rate analysis. The report given by VanGilder showed the aldermen a couple of things. One, the city's water and sewer rates must be increased in the near future. Two, Cassville's rates are currently around half of what they must be to make the city eligible for federal or state funding, including grants. These findings put the council in a very difficult situation, and imagining that city utility rates could more than double will be scarey for many local residents who are already struggling to put food on the table and gas in their cars.

The Cassville Council is currently looking at three rate increase scenarios for both water and wastewater fees. The first scenario, which would increase the average cost of water and sewer services from $37.24 to $67.61 would generate over $1.2 million annually. The funds would cover current operating costs and provide the city with $140,000 each year for equipment replacement. Scenario two would increase average costs by more than $56 per month. This would cover current operating costs, provide funding for equipment replacement and generate an additional $521,378 for major maintenance costs. The third scenario will increase the average utility bill by $58.73. This scenario could help make Cassville eligible for grant funding in the future when monies are once again made available by the state and federal government.

All of the proposed scenarios carry a hefty price tag for area residents. Although it is necessary for the council to approve some kind of rate increase, aldermen must also consider how these increases will impact area citizens. For this reason, Cassville residents must come forward to give feedback on the proposed rate changes. It will not be productive to become angry, write malicious letters or point fingers at city officials and aldermen. It will be productive to let our elected council and city staff members know how increases will impact us. We also need to remember that some type of increase must be enacted. Cassville's rates have not been increased in several years and at that time, rates were not raised enough to cover increasing expenses. This is going to be tough on all of us. I am already thinking about how I can adjust my budget to absorb at least a $30 per month increase.

It is my hope that over the coming weeks and months, Cassville citizens will come forward to speak to city officials and aldermen about these changes in a calm and rational manner. I don't know how other residents will feel about these proposed changes, but I am hopeful that increases will be enacted gradually to give citizens an opportunity to adjust their budgets over a period of time. If rates are more than doubled overnight the city could put a major financial strain on families that are already struggling. I am especially concerned about local residents who are currently surviving on fixed incomes.

If you have an opportunity to speak with a member of the Cassville City Council or city staff, please take a few moments to give them feedback on the proposed changes. If the city elects to host a public hearing on the proposed rate increase, please attend and voice your opinion. Don't wait until after an increase has been approved to let officials know how you will be impacted. This is the time to share your concerns and opinions. This is the time to give feedback.

Lindsay Reed