Paying the price

Many of you have probably noticed a cost increase for your water and sewer charges. I noticed that mine jumped about $30. This is one of those things everyone picks up on fairly quickly — a cost increase. Nothing much you can do about it. It is staring you in the face as you open and examine your bill. Yikes!

But when you went to the city office to pay your bill did you holler at the lady behind the desk? Some people did. Now that wasn't very nice. You surely don't think it was her fault, do you? Or maybe she was gone and you hollered at someone else. Or maybe you didn't holler at all, you just bad-mouthed the employees, mayor, and city council at the coffee shop.

People, people, people — none of that is going to help!

In fact, there isn't much of anything that is going to help. Those are rate increases that were built into the utility projects. The increases (which come along from time to time) generate funds to pay for our part of the cost of the water and sewer plant upgrades. Some of the money for the projects came our way in the form of grants. That we don't have to pay back. The rest came in the form of loans. And just like your car loan or mortgage, the loans have to be paid back. The loans will be retired in 2040. To take a bath, wash your dishes, and flush your waste, you will have to help pay the bill for water and sewer until then.

There are things you can do to conserve. You know the drill. You know the environmentally sound solutions for conservation. Use less is a big one. Then use less again. Get your water leaks fixed. Wash only full loads of dishes or laundry. Take shorter showers.

You might also take a deep breath. This isn't going to go away anytime soon. As we deplete the area aquifers and reservoirs our water resources are going to become more and more pricey. We all need to get used to it.

The lines that carry the water and sewage are 100 years old. Most had a 40- or 50-year life span. Former mayors and city councils could not afford to replace them so nothing was done. The city has been on borrowed time for decades. Guess what is happening now? We are finding out we waited too long.

The federal government mandated utility upgrades many years ago — for every small town, every community, and every big city. Quality water for all was the goal. In Washington they said everyone has to bite the bullet and bring in good water. They even said they would help us pay for it. So we did it. And so did Florence and Whitewater and Hillsboro and Wichita.

And now we must pay for the privilege of listening to them and taking that funding they offered.

So don't yell at Mayor Slocombe or city treasurer Stephanie Ax about the size of your water/sewer bill. They honestly had nothing to do with it. It was all cast in stone by the local, state, and federal folks who were in power decades ago.

Admit it, we thought it would be a good deal to have the federal and state boys give us grants to help with our utility updates. Sure we did! Some little town had to be on the receiving end, so it might as well be us, right? The only problem is that we forgot who would write the check to pay back the loan portion.