After more than a half dozen public hearings and multiple special meetings, the Bethel City Council wants to finalize water and sewer rates next month. But members are still divided on some basic concepts, like how steeply they should raise piped water and whether to split the city into two zones for hauled services.
In several arrangements, piped customers would see the biggest jump. Councilmember Leif Albertson said that would be shock to some.
“It would be very difficult for many households to, one month to the next, get a 60-percent change in their bill. That’s why it’s a tough one for me,” said Albertson.
And some hauled customers could see a drop in fees, but the council is also looking at keeping them flat, while raising others. Mayor Klejka said he’s not in favor of a two zone system, which charges more for outlying neighborhoods.
“I think it’s just too much of an onus on them, it’s too much of a burden on them with the cost of service,” said Klejka.
After several months of work, council member Whitney says the public has had plenty of time to have their voice heard. He critiqued the council’s efforts to protect different user groups from the true costs while allowing some to overpay.
“That sounds patently ridiculous. Buck up and get ready for a rate increase on your piped water. You’ve got to face it. It’s not pretty, but we need to move the city forward, and we need to pay for the services we provide,” said Whitney.
In other action, the council introduced an ordinance to acquire a property on Brown’s Slough from Hoffman fuel, evidently settling some litigation. The council did not say much, other than that the company was behind on sales tax. They also formally approved Andree Achee as Police Chief. The former Lieutenant has been Acting Police Chief since early this year.
The council accepted a 700-hundred thousand dollars Rasmuson grant for furniture and fixtures at the new pool. They also received a legislative grant of 700-hundred thousand going towards the sewage lagoon truck dump site. Replacing the platform would cost double that award amount.
The council introduced a change to the city’s purchasing code that allows the staff to disclose the name of a contractor to the council at the time of a contract approval. Current code restricts that until after approval, leading the council to vote on contracts without knowing who the contractor is.