GARDINER — Sanitary District customers will now hopefully see a more equitable rate on their monthly bills.
District board members have approved a new system for summer rate changes after hearing from Reedsport Finance Director Jessica Terra.
Board member and secretary Richard Nored provided background, saying "we actually did not change the rate structure, except to reduce the summer cost to allow for irrigation water to be applied without sanitary charges."
"Basically water consumption for the summer months is based on the average of usage from November through April, which gives residents a break in comparison to the original method of charging strictly for water usage," the board member wrote in an email.
Nored explained that for tenants "without 60 days of water consumption by April 30 we set a default value of 625 cubic feet as the winter average for application during the summer months."
Board members approved the ordinance Aug. 22 but retroactively applied this to rates back to Aug. 1.
"I haven't heard much from our consumers, but what I have heard has been positive," Nored wrote. "This ordinance was just provided to allow residents to water their yards without paying sewer charges for the irrigation water during the summer months. The board was simply responding to a request from the residents."
Approximately a year and a half ago, the district board adopted a limit of 250 cubic feet. However anyone using below that cap paid more during the summer months. This included new renters or property owners who hadn't established an average use because they didn't have an established history, according to meeting minutes.
Terra said about eight years ago, Reedsport faced similar challenges with retirees who travel south for the winter. If the seniors didn't generate an average, they didn't pay a fee for actual usage but for the "default value," according to the minutes.
The finance director proposed two choices which would keep the rate structure unchanged. Then instead of having a cap on use, the district would start a default value. The two choices before the sanitary board were to use 625 cubic feet, which is the same as Reedsport's or to use 460 cubic feet. This latter amount amounts to the average of the 2016-17 winter for all residential customers in Gardiner and commercial accounts are excluded.
Nored said he wanted fairness for all customers and wanted the same figures as Reedsport's. With this, the board approved going with 625 cubic feet.