Council to look at tap fee relief for some

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 23, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Help may be on the way for seniors and disabled residents struggling to pay the high cost of tapping onto city water and sewer services.

The City Council, during its work session Wednesday, got its first look at a proposed policy to reduce the $1,685 connection and availability fees for eligible customers.


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Reductions would be given on a sliding scale, based on the homeowner’s income the previous year and total financial worth, said Al Moor, the city’s director of public utilities. The plan is based on the criteria set up in the city’s Property Tax Relief for the Elderly and Disabled, which the council approved in April.

Under the plan, eligible residents earning $0 to $17,000 would qualify for a 100 percent exemption. At the other end of the spectrum, those with incomes ranging from $30,000 to $32,000 would get a 10 percent discount.

Seniors have to be over age 65 and have a total net worth of under $125,000, excluding the market value of their home, Moor said. Disabled residents must be receiving disability checks and meet the same income.

The city’s Department of Social Services will determine eligibility, Moor said.

Last spring, when the city purchased several community wells and outlined costs for bringing them on line, residents upset about the costs expressed concerns at several community meetings.

On Wednesday, Councilman Charles Brown called for making the policy retroactive for any eligible person who has signed on to city utilities in the past two years.

&uot;If we are going to make a policy, it should be fair to all citizens,&uot; said Brown. &uot;I will never, ever go along with what is recommended.

&uot;It is not fair to the people who borrowed money to payer the higher fees. I still think there is a better way of doing this.&uot;

Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett and Councilwoman Linda T. Johnson disagreed, saying it would be difficult to find an equitable way of going back in time.

&uot;You can’t go back and do it retroactively. You have to start a policy at some starting date,&uot; Bennett said. &uot;I think we have to set policies in place and move on.&uot;

Councilwoman Linda Johnson agreed.

&uot;We either need to leave it the way it is or take the new policy,&uot; she said. &uot;Either way, there are going to be unhappy people.&uot;