Greenfield councilors speak out against water, sewer rate hikes

  • Greenfield town councilman, Isaac Mass. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt Matt Burkhartt

  • Brickett Allis, Precinct 3Recorder/Micky Bedell


  • Stock image of a sprinkler. METRO CREATIVE GRAPHICS

Recorder Staff
Tuesday, February 13, 2018

GREENFIELD — Nontransparent and nonessential. Those were the two words some city councilors used to describe a recently announced hike in sewer and water rates.

Mayor William Martin released a statement on Feb. 9 detailing a 10 percent increase to water rates and 15 percent increase to sewer rates for the Jan. 1 to June 30 billing cycle.

Precinct 3 Councilor Brickett Allis and At-Large Councilor Isaac Mass said Tuesday the mayor’s office and the Department of Public Works have not been forthcoming about the size of the increases.

“Basically, we were told the water and sewer rate would go up by 5 percent and all of a sudden it’s 15 percent and no one knows why,” said Allis, claiming there has been a consistent “transparency issue” between the council and mayor.

Attempts to reach Martin or a member of his staff were unsuccessful Tuesday. The mayor was reportedly out of town for the week, but a statement announcing the rate hike said, “This is part of our focus on infrastructure upgrades due to new laws and regulations and will help us move forward in a fiscally responsible manner while keeping with our commitment to maintaining affordable water and sewer.”

Martin cited a need to “pay for important maintenance and upgrades to maintain our high-quality water and sewer system.”

Allis said projects like the Rocky Mountain water tank and the Leyden Road water tank replacements have already been completed, and that those projects were earmarked as being paid from general property tax revenue. Allis said such projects were approved with an understanding that rate increases would be 5 percent, and he surmised that the city is increasing rates up to 15 percent to pay for debt incurred by those projects. Still, he said, the numbers don’t add up.

“Those projects are already finished,” Allis said. “Unless they’re going to pay the debt this is raising, but that’s bonded and already going to be paid with taxpayer money.”

Other projects, Allis said, like a proposal for building a new modular DPW office for $300,000, would have less support if councilors knew it meant rate hikes would be going up by so much.

According to Allis, if raising rates by 10 to 15 percent was necessary, councilors would have rethought many of their decisions. To carry out certain projects concurrent with these increases, Allis said, is irresponsible.

The proposal to build a new DPW office is controversial, Allis said, and many believe it is unnecessary. Moving the DPW offices from the town hall where residents already pay their taxes made little sense in the first place, Allis said.

“The bottom line is it’s spending money on something you don’t need while raising rates,” Allis said. “It’s like going to the casino while you need to pay your mortgage.”

According to Mass, the Rocky Mountain project cost around $400,000 less than what it was budgeted for, leaving him scratching his head as to why the city would be raising rates so much.

A top priority, according to the mayor’s statement, is replacing the last water pump behind the fire station. Even that, Mass said, could be held off if it saves Greenfield residents on their water or sewer bills.

The changes would increase water rates to $3.06 per hundred cubic feet and sewer rates to $5 per 100 cubic feet, increasing the average residential customer’s rate in Greenfield by less than $9 per month.

According to a Tighe and Bond statewide survey, Greenfield’s water and sewer bills would be 35 percent less than the state average of $1,457, even with the increases.