Opposed to Offsetting Rates

RECEIVED Wed., Feb. 17, 2016

Dear Editor,
    Yet again, there is word that one of the frequently disgruntled conservative City Council members is kvetching about the water utility rates, and wants them reduced so some of the more fortunate members of his district can less expensively consume mass quantities of water for their golf course lawns or swimming pools.
    I'm all for lower water rates, too. Even for my non-city-subsidized xeriscape. But, it might be a useful exercise to pause for a moment in this emotionally charged atmosphere, and reflect on why the water rates are so high in the first place.
    Well, I believe the answer to that question is fairly clear: The reason why our water rates are higher than they should be is because a previous city council elected to build Water Treatment Plant 4, which may in fact be located in the disgruntled council member's district.
    Unfortunately, because that $1 billion albatross was built, it has to be paid for, due to laws of economics and the legal and financial obligations of the city of Austin. And, I think the City Council is prudent to continue to finance this unneeded and expensive piece of infrastructure through water rates, as has been the case.
    Thus, I am opposed to offsetting our high water rates with money from the General Fund. The time to prevent the escalation in water rates ended the day WTP4 was approved for construction. Where was Mr. Zimmerman at the time an earlier city council was approving WTP4?
    Unless any council members have any ideas on how to squeeze more revenue out of WTP4 or how to cut its costs now that it has been built, I would urge the City Council to focus its attention on other problems for which it can actually provide a practical and constructive solution, and which could result in improvements to our city.
Stuart Werbner
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