Update on Richmond Water Utility

Posted: September 30, 2013 in Uncategorized
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Here is an update on the issue of the Water utility charges in the City of Richmond. The current charges hurt low income and elderly folks while subsidizing corporations and businesses water usage. Its bad for our low income residents and bad for the environment. From Scott Burger:

Hey everybody,

I hope you all had a great summer.

We will be ramping up the Richmond, VA water rate reform campaign again this October.

For one thing today (Sept. 30) is the day that the City utility should be presenting some options to City Council. Also, the new format for utility bills should be rolling out. You may have seen that DPU is also working on their efforts with a “Citizens’ Academy”.

Here is the “311” on that:

“The city of Richmond Department of Public Utilities introduces a four- session course to give participants a working knowledge of their public utilities provider. Each course consists of a classroom portion and ends with a tour of the utility functions discussed. Participants are encouraged to register for all four courses. Class size is limited to 20 students. Each class is scheduled on a Tuesday afternoon from 4–6 p.m. in October at various locations throughout the utility.

“Our goal is to create a better understanding of how the utility manages the important resources entrusted to us and provide our customers with an educational, interesting and engaging experience,” said Utilities Director Bob Steidel.

· SESSION 1: Oct. 1, 2013 – DPU Operations Center Atrium
400 Jefferson Davis Highway, Richmond, VA 23224
· SESSION 2: Oct. 8, 2013 – Wastewater Treatment Plant
1400 Brander Street, Richmond, VA 23224
· SESSION 3: Oct. 15, 2013 – Water Treatment Plant
3920 Douglasdale Road, Richmond, VA 23221
· SESSION 4: Oct. 22, 2013 – DPU Operations Center Atrium
400 Jefferson Davis Highway, Richmond, VA 23224
All sessions take place from 4-6 p.m.

For questions or to register, call or email DPU Public Relations and

Marketing specialist Rhonda Johnson at (804) 646-5463 or rhonda.johnson@richmondgov.com.”
If you recall, the water rate reform campaign refocused on what’s called the PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) portion of the bill after Mayor Jones did address PART of the minimum payment. Over the summer, I saw an opinion by the CIty Attorney that seemed to suggest the PILOT for federal taxes was legal, going along with what the utility has said. However, I have not heard back yet about an opinion from the State Attorney’s office. State Sen. Watkins was good enough to ask for that on our behalf back in May. So, for now, we are still zero’ing on the federal taxes portion of the PILOT in the City’s water bills.

Why are Richmond customers still forced to make a monthly payment lieu of Federal income taxes on their city water bill?

The message right now:

The Sierra Club Falls of the James group helped bring to the city’s attention last year the injustice of charging every household about $60 annually for a payment in lieu of Federal income taxes. This payment, of questionable legality, is a regressive means of taxing a basic necessity to finance the city’s general fund. The city can legally charge the customer for taxes that would be paid to the city if the water works was privately owned, but no private company pays Federal income tax to the city.

The city’s base service charge is still not shown on the bill, so most customers are not aware that they must pay $26.40 each month just to be connected to the water supply. Other localities charge a far lower service charge. The monthly service charge in Norfolk is only $1.

Richmond’s STILL high service charge does not promote conservation, and it is unfair to low and moderate income residents. It is as though the city has pegged the service charge to the poverty rate. With 26% of Richmond’s residents living below the poverty level, it is unconscionable to charge $26 to be connected to the water supply.

Stay tuned, and again, thank you so much for your support.

Scott Burger

P.S. I invite you all again to join the Sierra Club Falls of the James (http://virginia.sierraclub.org/foj/) as well as Better Government- Richmond (http://bg-us.org). These groups are working hard to improve our lives.

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