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Council gives break to utility rate payers housing low-income seniors
MONROE - The city has added a new category of utility rate customers, giving a discount to some building owners with low-income senior residents.
  Creating the new category is a temporary solution to a larger problem, finance director Dianne Nelson said. The city needs a new utility rate structure altogether, she said.
  “This is just a temporary fix until the end of 2014 when we can do a rate study; we’ll be reviewing all the customer classes and the various rate structure and we will be finding the most equitable rate for the customers,” Nelson said.
  Nelson is currently waiting for direction from the City Council on when she will be able to begin that study, she said in an e-mail last week.
  She is scheduled to request direction at the Nov. 19 council meeting. If she receives the green light, a look into how the city can improve its utility rate structure will begin in the near future. 
  “Tentatively, (the study) is scheduled for the second half of the year 2014,” Nelson said.
  Over the past year, a number of different individuals or businesses have come forward to ask the City Council to grant them either a special utility customer classification, or to give them a refund of some kind.
  Councilman Tom Williams expressed a concern at last week’s meeting that creating this class of utility customer indirectly benefiting senior citizens may encourage more residents to come forward and ask for special treatment. 
  Nelson said only three utility customers will qualify for placement within this new category.
  Williams suggested firming up the date of the rate structure study, which will give residents more of an idea of when anxieties about their utility bill will be addressed. 
He also recommended the city take into account what the residents have to say on the topic.
  “It might be wise at that time to suggest that we start taking feedback or input from citizens on whether we are going to react to anything else until we have a chance to,” Williams said. 
  City administrator Gene Brazel said a study doesn’t necessarily mean the city will change its rates.
  “In looking at the rates, that’s a major undertaking,” Brazel said. “I don’t know for sure we’ll change the rates.”
  Because the city of Everett increased the price it sells water, the difference must be made up somewhere, Brazel said. The city buys its water from Everett.

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