Just Pay the $6 Already

Just Pay the $6 Already

Ironically, given that this post is about local politics, the tagline that greets me, incase it has changed by the time you read this, is “the price of living in a democracy is that any moron can vote, say what they want, and procreate at will.”

An article our local paper Tuesday morning discussed Monday night’s special meeting of the Richmond Common Council to discuss a $6 increase in monthly sewer bills in order to help pay for capital improvements to our sewer system.

The problem is that the federal government has ordered cities to improve the quality of water it allows to drain into area rivers. Cities can do so by regulating
the amount and quality of water that runs from the city to streams.

When you take into account that this water is absorbed by the atmosphere, redistributed in the form of rain, and eventually drunk, bathed in, or used to wash food this doesn’t seem to be a bad deal.

In addition, the southwest part of the city has been plagued by flooding. The city has tried to solve that problem by installing a holding tank near the affected homes. Unfortunately, according to someone I’ve spoken with in the Sanitation department, this will only hold water for 15 seconds in heavy rain. The improvements to the sewer system are needed to help solve this problem as well.

Some landlords, who own rental property in the city, are upset because the fee may be charged on a per-unit basis. They’ll just
pass that cost along to their tennants the next time the lease is up so I don’t see what they have to be angry about.

The article quotes Councilman Bing Welch as saying, “”In 2004 we gave you an increase in user fees. Now you’re asking to hit us again. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the numbers you’ve given me.” Granted I wasn’t here in 2004 and I’m certainly no expert on sewage systems or City policies, but I’m guessing that “increase in user fees” can be explained by a basic principle of economics, something they taught all of us in high school is a guarantee, INFLATION. Prices go up, and if there’s no way to pay for that increase, services decline or even stop.

I hear people wining all the time about how, “things are too expensive,” and, “it didn’t used to cost this much.” That’s true, but I don’t think there’s any way of stopping it. Milk isn’t 50 cents a galon, you can’t get a burger and fries for 45 cents and you can’t buy a car for much under 10 grand. Guess what, at least as far as the car goes, you’re paying for better safety, more features, and reliability.

This $6 charge is one meal at McDonalds, a 24 pack of pop, and just barely gets you into the movies. If it were your, thos who are complaining, basement that was filling up with water because of an aging wastewater system you would be screaming bloody murder until things changed. In an era where people are screaming about too much government and asking, “What is my money being spent on?” here’s a darn good answer. It’s being spent to improve a city who needs imrpoving.

If Richmond wants to become an economically viable city and attract new economic development opportunities we will need to improve not only the way the place looks, but also the way it functions. The things you don’t see, like what happens when you flush your toilet, are just as viable to building and maintaing interest in living here as how good the park looks and where you can go eat dinner.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the city is going to misspend the 1.5 million a year they have the potential to collect with this fee, but I don’t think so. The Sanitation department has already identified 16 major projects this money will be earmarked for. I’m as fiscally conservative as the next guy, but when we have the 5th largest unemployment rate, as a county, in the state I think anything we can do to improve the marketability of our city is crucial. It’s not glamorous, it isn’t exciting, but it is a necessity.