A consumer advocate decried Mayor Jerry Sanders’ proposed water rate increases Monday, saying the notice water customers were provided earlier this month downplayed the amount normal ratepayers will pay if the City Council approves his plan.

The proposed 6.5-percent increase, which is slated to occur four straight years under Sanders’ proposal, would actually be closer to an 11.8-percent rate hike for an average single-family residence, Utility Consumers’ Action Network Executive Director Michael Shames said. He also said the city was not being open about a second rate increase that is expected to be proposed this fall, and that residences are more heavily burdened by the proposal than businesses.

As a result, the city should send out notices that are more accurate and restart the 45-day period for customers to file protests, which currently expires just before the Feb. 26 council vote, he said.

“If they pass the increase as it is proposed, it’s not adequate and they’ll have to notice it again anyhow,” Shames said.

Sanders spokesman Fred Sainz said, “It appears that most of information and observations Mr. Shames is making are either misleading or false,” but added that the city’s formal response will be released publicly later this week.

Shames settled a lawsuit with the city in November after he alleged that residents’ sewer bills were unfairly subsidizing large industrial users. He said UCAN plans to investigate the mayor’s companion sewer rate proposal in the coming weeks.


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