Saturday, May 12, 2012

Ogden Water Rate Increase Higher Than Claimed

If you don't speak up, you're bound to get "soaked"

As we approach Tuesday's upcoming (5/15/12) Ogden City Council session, at which time Ogden City citizens will have one final opportunity to offer their public comments on the proposed Ogden City water rates revisions which have been a topic of Weber Count Forum discussion over the past several months, a couple of news items have arisen this morning, which once again place the water rates topic back on the WCF front burner.

First, the Standard-Examiner carries this Mitch Shaw story, reporting that Ogden City political activist and WCF contributer Dan Schroeder warns that "Ogden’s upcoming water rate increase could be higher than advertised":
Secondly, we'll link to the news release below, which was transmitted by Dan Schroeder to SE Reporter Shaw earlier in the week, and graciously re-transmitted to us as a courtesy this morning. This is the original document which provoked Mr. Shaw's morning article, according to Dr. Schroeder.  As professor Schroeder opines in a comment beneath this article, "The situation is much worse than this article would lead you to believe..."; and that's no exaggeration, wethinks:
Even upon a cursory reading it appears that, for reasons unknown, Dr. Schroeder's warnings have been soft-pedaled by the Standard. Between the bad assumptions, data calculations, the so-called "experts," Lewis, Young, Robertson, and Burningham (LYRB),  have made quite a mess of the water rates revision process, in our view. It's no wonder, we'll suggest, that our Ogden City Council seems to be having their eyes glaze over. We'll leave it to our readers to make their own contrasts and comparisons, of course.

For our readers' convenience we'll also link the original consultant's report and appendices, which are referenced in both Mr. Shaw's story and Dan's news release:
Have at it O Gentle Ones; and don't forget to mark your calenders for Tuesday's critical Council Meeting.

And whatever you do... don't neglect to throw in your own 2¢.

If you don't speak up, you're bound to get "soaked."


Bob Becker said...

Lewis, Young, Robertson, and Burningham (LYRB),  have made a quite mess of the water rates revision process, in our view.
That's one way to look at it.  But it is not unknown for consultants working in concert with clients, like city governments, to couch their recommendations in a fog of difficult to ferret out complex statements in order that a particular  recommendation may be more easily adopted.   Sometimes, in short, consultants and their clients might consider being clear to be counterproductive.    If that happened in this case, then it wasn't a case of their "making a mess" of the process at all, it was a case of their making the report more opaque than it needed to be in order to better serve the interests of their clients. 

Just speculating and what-iffing.........

Dan S. said...

We should keep in mind here that the consultants' client was the Ogden city administration, not the city council. Of course, when the council votes for the rate ordinance on Tuesday, it will become their responsibility.

Pissedl said...

I'm still mystified about how this idiotic plan "levels the playing field" between those of us who have secondary water, and those who irrigate their lawns with expensive Ogden City culinary water.

If I have the foresight to by an Ogden residential property with secondary water (Pineview in my case), why should I now be called upon to subsidise the water bills of those who don't have that secondary water property amenity?


You bet!

Dan S. said...

Here's a tidbit from the Culinary Water Master Plan (page 15) that hasn't been mentioned yet, as far as I know, in any of the meetings or news reports:

"There is currently outdoor sprinkler water being used in a business park area called Business Depot Ogden (BDO) that receives water from the City but does not have any accounts with the City.  The City uses this as an incentive for businesses to move into the BDO business park."

Danny said...

1. This was a decent article from  Mitch Shaw, and it was decent of the newspaper to print it.  So much better than what we got with Schwebke, who could do a good job when he tried, he just hardly ever did.

2. Note that Dan Schroeder is still ferreting out these facts, even though Godfrey is gone.  It wasn't about Godfrey, it was about honesty.

3. This process is classic "confuse with BS" - these reports are massive and complex.  They could have made the process simple by coming up with plots as Schroeder did.  The reason they didn't is they aren't being up front.

The city council should shut this mess down and start it again.  It stinks.  It shouldn't stink.

Bob Becker said...

Off topic, but on a subject that's been discussed in these parts now and then:  The  SE has up this morning an interesting article headlined "Should States Be In the Liquor Business?"  Uses Pennsylvania's experience as its example... Pennsylvania whose liquor control board came up with Looney Toons ideas fully worthy of the Utah liquor control commission.  Like putting state owned wine-bottle vending machines in supermarkets. But you couldn't get a bottle until you breathed into a tube that analyzed the alcoholic content of your breath/blood, and a state agent in a central office signaled the machine that it was OK to sell you the bottle.   And of course, the Pa Liquor Commission decreed that the machines must be locked down on Sundays.... the biggest sales day for most supermarkets in the state.   Naturally, the machines lost money... over a million in their first year of operation... and are now history.   Upshot of the story seems clear: states have no business running a booze monopoly business.  Link here: 

Dan S. said...

As if all these numbers aren't confusing enough already, I've realized there's yet another source of ambiguity and inconsistency.

All of the rate increases in the consultants' report and in my own press release were calculated relative to the budgeted revenue for the 2011-2012 fiscal year. Obviously, that budget estimate could be inaccurate and this adds to the uncertainty in any estimated change in revenue between this fiscal year and the next.

But there's another issue: The current water rates have been in effect only since November 1, when there was a rate increase that averaged about 4%. So the current fiscal year includes four months when the rates were lower--and those were four of the months of highest water use. Thus, if the current rates had been in effect the entire fiscal year, the revenue for the year would be about 2% higher. As a result, my estimated 18% overall rate increase, relative to the budgeted FY 2012 revenue, is really only a 16% increase relative to the rates that are in effect now--plus or minus any error due to the budget estimate being inaccurate.

As a check, I calculated the average rate increase using a completely different method that doesn't refer to any budget at all. I have a large data file of monthly water use during 2010 for all customers with one-inch and smaller connections. (Names have been removed from the data.) I calculated the hypothetical revenue from these customers under both the current and the proposed rates, and the average increase came to 15.2%. Unfortunately, I don't have enough data to make a similar estimate for "commercial" customers (i.e., larger connections). The weighted average increase in the commercial base rates is 19.7%, but figuring in the change in per-gallon charges would bring this down substantially.

Dan S. said...

We should keep in mind here that the consultants' client was the Ogden city administration, not the city council. Of course, when the council votes for the rate ordinance on Tuesday, it will become their responsibility.

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