Protesters urge change to city’s water and sewer fees

Posted at 11:58 PM, Sep 24, 2012
and last updated 2012-09-25 14:47:22-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)--Dozens of protesters stood outside Richmond City Hall on Monday, in opposition to the city’s water and sewer service fee.

"Little Rock Arkansas $20.72, Oklahoma City $13.03, Milwaukee Wisconsin $9.65, you get the idea," said Scott Burger of the Richmond Sierra Club.

By comparison the proposed service rate in Richmond hovers around $49 dollars. Richmonders pay that monthly to be connected to the city’s water supply. That price comes before they use one drop of water.

"If it`s not going to the water, it`s almost like a tax,” protester Mary Godsey said. “Why don`t they just say they`re taxing us?”

Sierra club protest organizers claim the event was inspired in July, after Mayor Dwight Jones’ proposed budget called for another small hike in the fee. It was at that point the group decided to confront the council on behalf of all those struggling with bills already.

"I don`t think people can afford to that right now and I think we need to take care of people who need help," protestor Karen Andrew said.

The protestors asked council to lower the fee to $15 dollars, more in line with neighboring jurisdictions like Henrico and Chesterfield, which hover around $20 dollars.

"The city is using its own water utility as a cash cow," Sierra Club member Charles Pool said.

Richmond CAO Byron Marshall responded to the presentation made to council and claimed a rate study ordered by the mayor is already underway.  He also assured council that help will be coming in the spring, for those struggling most.

"We will be recommending, at the very least a lifeline rate for waters and sewer," Marshall said.

Several council members agreed that the issue needs further review and that perhaps the minimum fee needs to be lowered.

"We appreciate you coming down and you keep pressing until we get some clear cut answers," councilman Marty Jewell said.