AMMON — Many residents are not happy about their water bills after new metering rates went into effect.
Ammon locals began circulating a petition for the City Council to reduce water rates when their higher monthly bills started showing up. The online petition has garnered more than 1,000 signatures. Some are saying their water bill has doubled since the new rates went into effect.
“I’ve put timers on my hoses. I paid a company $300 to come out and fertilize my lawn four times a year so I wouldn’t be as water-dependent for green grass,” Ammon resident Craig Anderson told EastIdahoNews.com. “With my taking those steps to conserve water, my bill still went up 58 percent.”
Anderson said other residents asked him to start a petition, so he created the “Petition for Affordable Water in Ammon ID” on ipetitions.com. After the petition reached its original goal of 200 signatures, Anderson raised the goal to 400. That goal was quickly reached, and he eventually raised it to 1,000. Many of those signees are leaving comments on the petition.
Here are some of the comments:
- “The meter usage is insane. Elected officials have a responsibility to care for the citizens, not bankrupt them.” — Camille Brown
- “My bill was only $95 a month for a long time. Now it is $159. The city needs to look at this again.” — Blair Hendricks
- “My water bill is close to $100, and my lawn is still brown. I’m just trying to keep it alive. I understand the need to cover costs and plan for the future. But this is out of hand. I will be at the next council meeting.”– Barry Lewis
Water metering has been discussed for some time in Ammon, and the city has worked to install meters on all the homes in the city.
In January 2019, the city laid out its water-metering plan. The proposal, which the city later adopted, was to charge a flat rate of $30 plus $1 for every 1,000 gallons used.
One of the initial proposals was a tiered rate starting with a $30 base rate that would cover 7,000 gallons of water with up to $1.40 per 1,000 gallons more than that first 7,000.
The city tested that proposal for more than a year with residents so they could see what their bill would be. Sometime between that test period and January 2019, the city opted to change the proposal to what it has now — not covering the first 7,000 gallons in the $30 fee.
“They just did away with that 7,000-gallon base rate, but they still kept that $30 base fee,” Anderson said. “So, what that does, that has taken a life-sustaining utility and increased it anywhere from 58 to 80 percent per month.”
Ammon Mayor Sean Coletti said the test rate was “never a promised rate,” but was meant to provide information to the city, which led to city leaders establishing the current rate.
“Some residents on the adopted rate are using between 1,000 and 20,000 gallons a month in the summer months and are paying between $31 and $50 respectively,” Coletti said. “There are other residents that are using over 200,000 gallons a month in the summer months. Some are using much, much more.”
Ammon resident Dick Bybee said his neighbors are not able to water their lawns because they can’t afford the water rate.
“The lot next to me … they’ve turned their little sprinkler one once all summer long in their backyard,” Bybee said. “Their grass is burning up. If you drive around town, there’s a lot of people with lots that they just flat stopped watering their lots because they can’t afford the water bill.”
Coletti said between April and July 2019, Ammon residents used 150 million gallons less than during the same timeframe in 2018.
“This number will grow as more residents take conservation measures and as the metering process is completed,” he said.
Bybee said he plans on telling the City Council at its Sept. 7 meeting that he believes the city has misled the residents about how much they would end up paying under the new metering rate and that they need to reduce the rates.
Coletti said the council reviews water rates once a year.
“It is not the intention of the city to overcharge or to undercharge but to simply charge for the cost of water delivery. Once 12 months of data exist on the metered rate, the City Council will review and make adjustments if merited,” he said.