City Council reps discuss climbing water rates in town
Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 01:09
At Monday’s Newark City Council meeting, members discussed the potential climbing water rates. The first reading of the bill, which would set water rates for the year, was postponed after criticism from attending residents.
John Kowalko, the state representative from the 25th district, voiced concerns that the water rates had risen rapidly over the last few years.
“On March 31, 2009, the rate was $2.61,” Kowalko said. “In the proposed increase, the rate is $4.29. That is an increase of $1.68.”
Kowalko said that the 64 percent increase was an unfair burden to Newark’s residents. He also said that the tax exemption status for the university was a major factor in why water rates have been on the rise.
“I believe this city is being unfairly treated by the existing law,” Kowalko said.
Newark Mayor Vance A. Funk III said the city is not included in the tax exemption and the government was not informed until it was too late.
“It’s costing us $800,000 to $1 million a year because this happened without our knowledge,” Funk said.
Kowalko said he still believed there is more the city can do to keep water rates from rising. He said that although the country is in a recession, there has to be another way to cut costs.
“I am looking for a solution of relief,” Kowalko said.
Kowalko’s wife, Connie Merlet, who is the director of Willa Road Daycare in Newark, said as a small business owner, she understands that rates increase. However, she said if she can control her business’ rates, the city should be able to manage its rates as well.
She said residents should be at a financial advantage by living near a college.
“We are a university town of a huge university which brings in an incredible number of businesses,” Merlet said. “We shouldn’t be burdened by it, we should be reaping the benefits.”
The City Council considered the argument from Merlet and Kowalko. District 4 Councilman David Athey asked for the bill to be removed from the agenda. The council members decided to hold off on the first reading of the bill until October to give members time to consider the residents’ request to reevaluate the rates.
Athey said the Pomeroy and Newark Rail Trail opening that happened earlier in the day was a successful event. The trail extends from the James F. Hall Trail east of South Chapel Street to the White Clay Creek State Park, connecting DART Transit Hub between Delaware Avenue and Main Street, the Newark Shopping Center and Laird Campus.
Although he did not attend the opening, Athey said he was excited by the work done to the trail.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t go to the ribbon-cutting,” Athey said. “It’s really cool. They did a great job.”
The council members took a moment to remember the 11th anniversary of September 11. District 6 Councilman Stu Markham was one of several council members who commemorated the event.