City proposes reduced sewer rates for condos

Published on Wed, Nov 11, 2009 by Tara Nelson

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Following much discussion with local condominium owners, the city of Blaine has proposed amending its sewer rates to allow condominium owners to access discounted rates for qualified seniors, handicapped and low-income individuals.

The proposal comes after a group of Blaine condominium owners, headed by Elle Tracy, demanded they be eligible for the same senior discounts afforded to other ratepayers.

“They don’t think that condominium owners pay their own utility bills but we do,” she said. “We pay our assessments and our utility bills are paid from those funds.”

“Our buildings look like, smell like, and act like apartment buildings,” she continued. “They give that discount to apartment building owners but not to condominium associations.”

In a regular meeting of Blaine City Council Monday, Blaine city manager Gary Tomsic said he understood their concern but because the utility bills are generally paid by a condominium owners association, it doesn’t allow the city to verify if those accounts are being used by senior and disabled persons. 

Condominium owners pay an association a monthly amount that includes landscaping, master insurance policy and, in some cases, basic utilities.

Tracy said in their particular case the residents pay 44 cents of every dollar to pay utilities.

Tomsic said the proposed amendment would offer condominium owners a way to pay their sewer rates through their individual electric accounts.

The only drawback, he said, is if those individuals fail to pay their sewer bill, their electricity could be shut off.

The process would work only for sewer rates because they are fixed. Water rates, on the other hand, are based on consumption and would require an individual meter to apply a discount.

Still, Tracy said she was pleased with the progress.

“We’re taking this a baby step at a time but we’re happy we got sewer rates reduced for seniors and disabled people,” she said.

Tracy said she wants to work on getting the city to recognize condominiums as high-density, multi-family housing units, which would also reduce sewer and water rates for residents.

Tomsic said the following rules would apply:

• The economic and age qualifications for the discount will remain the same.

• The person must have an individual utility account with the city as a way to bill and receive payment.

• The qualified person will be billed for sewer (and probably electricity if there is a separate meter) at the discounted rate. This bill will come directly to the qualified person.

• The qualified person will pay the city directly with a cash, personal check, credit card, etc.

• If the qualified person’s water is billed through a common meter with other tenants, then the discount will not apply to water.  The same is true with electricity.

• The eligibility of the person will be determined on an annual basis as required in the existing city ordinance.