Questions For Utility “Cost of Service” Meetings

Tonight is the first of four meetings the City of Richmond Department of Utilities is holding. This one starts at 5:30 and is being held at the Byrd Park Roundhouse (700 S. Davis Avenue).

“Ratepayers are encouraged to attend one of the sessions to learn more . There will be opportunities to ask questions.”

Here are some sample questions:

No alternative site for Chesterfield’s 2 million gallon water tank was considered other than Richmond’s Larus Park. The Dept. of Public Utilities claimed that the site was chosen because of its high elevation, but topography maps indicate that the entire Huguenot corridor is at the same elevation or higher? Will a site outside of Larus Park be selected for Chesterfield’s water facility?

How does selling water to the County at 74 cents per ccf (748 gallons) promote conservation?

Does not selling water to the county at a fifth the rate that City residents must pay put City businesses at a competitive disadvantage? (County pays 74 cents per ccf, while City residents pay $4.04 per ccf.)

If Chesterfield’s proposed 2 million gallon water tank is located in the County instead of in the City’s Larus Park, would not the relieve the contract provision that the City must pay the County for the $10 million water facility if the County does not renew the lease?

According to the latest City filings with the Va. Dept. of Environmental Quality, it is anticipated that the demand for water in the region may outstrip supply in about five years. But the proposed contract with Chesterfield County would lock in the ridiculously low price of water at only 5% over the City’s actual costs (currently at 74 cents per ccf) until 2045. Is it not reckless to lock in such low rates when we have there is not an unlimited water supply from the James River?

Richmond customers must pay a minimum monthly water/sewer service charge of $32 even if no water is used. This is one of the highest minimum water/sewer service charges in the country that places a disproportionate burden on water customers who conserve water and use little water. When will the Dept. of Public Utilities lower the base service charge to offer a reasonable rate to those who conserve water?

The Richmond Dept. of Public Utilities charges Richmond customers a payment in lieu of federal income tax on the water bill that is put into the city’s general fund. No other locality in Va. charges a federal income tax surcharge on the water bill. Will DPU remove the federal income tax surcharge on the water bill?

Other localities encourage conservation by offering customers a discounted volume rate for those using 3 ccf or less. When will the Richmond Dept. of Public Utilities initiate rates that encourage conservation?

The public was excluded in the selection of Larus Park for Chesterfield’s water facility and the public is not involved in setting water rates. When will the Richmond Dept. of Public Utilities start involving the public in these important decisions?

The city residents own Richmond’s utility but are frustrated to see that the utility showers the counties with low rates while city residents pay high water rates. As a result, Richmond with high rates is surrounded by localities, which purchase water from Richmond, that have remarkably lower water rates. Richmond residents are tired of hearing the utility trying to explain this away by saying that Richmond has rusted water pipes. When will Richmond’s residents start seeing a benefit of owning the utility in lower rates from their utility?

Richmond has a much higher poverty rate than the surrounding counties, yet the city-owned utility sells water to the county at a fifth of what Richmond residents must pay for the necessity. When will the city initiate like Petersburg a base life-line rate so all residents who conserve water will have basic service at a low rate?

When will we see solar panels on utility facilities? What does the utility use now for backup power and disaster recovery?