Thursday, August 27, 2009

From David to Dan w/ Love...


Hello Dan,

I came by your office Thursday, but missed you. The subjects on my mind again were the water and sewer rate structures. Since it is budget time now, if there were changes to be made, now would be the time. I know I have had conversations with you about this before, but wanted to point out a few things I am sure you already know and talk about them. People who use small amounts of water put the least load on the water and sewage systems as opposed to high water usage individuals and businesses that put the most loads on the water and sewage systems.

At the budget hearing I brought this up to the council. I will be bringing it up again at the next budget hearing because I think the point was completely missed. After speaking, the only conversation the council had among itself related to "the gas company charges a minimum rate, the electric company charges a minimum rate and everyone else charges a minimum rate, so I guess it is ok if we charge a minimum rate too." That is rather irritating for an answer.

When I wanted to do something as a kid I would use the justification that "well so and so is doing it." The response from my parents was generally, " If so and so jump off a cliff, would you jump also?" This isn't kid stuff, and those are improper responses for these topics, in my opinion. Bob especially, and the rest of them too, just didn't get it the point of my question.

The way I see it, the effect of the rate structure is to severely penalize water conversation and reward water usage. Financially it is unfair to all low usage residents and ecologically it does not promote conservation of reasonably limited and valuable natural resource.

It is not uncommon for me to use 1,000 gallons every 2 months. That makes the effective cost of water for me somewhere around $16.95 per 1,000 gallons. A person who does not care about conservation of water and uses 40,000 gallons of water a month pays only $3.369 per 1,000 gallons, the cheapest possible rate throughout the water rate structure. The effect of the current water and sewage rate structure is to massively penalize anyone who conserves or just by nature, uses little water.

If you want, feel free to pull up my water bill for my home, 500 S. Waterview Drive as well as for my business at 3396 N. Plano Road. Both at home and at the shop, we have very low water usage. If I remember correctly in previous conversations, you had said the average water usage throughout the city was about 11,000 gallons per month. I don't remember if that was residential or residential and commercial.

The point I am still not clear on, why is it necessary to have the minimum fee on the water and sewer rate structure especially considering the abhorrent effects it has on those who use so little water? It would seem simple enough to restructure the fee to include charges for only water used and totally eliminate the minimum fee for all. Thus doing would make water charges exactly proportional to use, reward those who do conserve and put the bulk of the charge on the backs of those who put the highest loads on the water and sewage systems.

Is there a reason that changes cannot be done, other than because "that is the way everyone else does it, so we will too?"

Thank you for your time Dan, and I apologize if this is just too dumb of a question to ask. I seem to be the only person who does ask it, and that has me concerned. Why others wouldn't be asking the same thing is a mystery to me. It seems such a simple thing to understand and rectify.

Thanks again,

David Chenoweth


  1. Oops, the other way around D. "From David to Dan..." :)

    Just to note, in the past Dan has always been very pleasant and responsive to questions I have had for him. Great person to ask questions of.


  2. It might be good to ask Jerry Ortega how much the city gets back for every dollar they have to pay for the water we don't use. I think it is around 65 cents +. The loss is not what they intimate.

  3. The with love part's still correct though right?

  4. The more I read the more I'm convinced: David is a local treasure.

    I wonder if it would be useful if the posts with his work in it were labeled/tagged "david" or something like that. If we can't strongarm him into his own blog this might make it easier to find and read his opinions.

  5. Great idea Bloggermouse! I'll try and do that!

  6. D., the with love part is still correct :)


  7. David... David, you poor lost 'tin cap' soul.... Do you also complain to the power company? What about the gas company? How about the phone company?

    Don't these companies also charge you a minimum just to have the services available when you want to use them?

  8. Hi anonymous@12:32pm

    Since you asked, I’ll give you what answers I can.

    For a power company I use is StarTex Power. As long as I use more than 500kwh a month, there is no minimum fee of any kind. My monthly average electrical use is about 650kwh a month.

    With the phone company, there is also no minimum fee, just the monthly fee (plus 101 or so different taxes). I have had the same contract for the past several years and I have never had to pay any extra over what the base service was, which is somewhere around $50 a month.

    Now the gas company, you got me there (imagine me hanging my head in shame over this one). No choice but to go with the only thing available in town.

    What do the City of Richardson Water Department and the local gas company, basically, have in common? They are both, effectively, monopolies. If you are a Richardson resident where else can you get water service? Also, do you have choice with which natural gas supplier you want to use? The answer to both questions is no. While monopolies can sometimes be good, they can also sometimes be, not so good.

    If you feel my comments were complaints, then you did not read my words properly or did not understand their meaning. What was being pointed out in my comments was what I perceived as problems. After noting the problems I pointed out what I thought to be reasonable solutions. I saw no such discussion on your part about problems or solutions. The only comments you offered were insults and sarcasm. Take a second to reread what I wrote, and then reread what you wrote. Who is making an attempt at a considered and thoughtful argument, and who is just whining, or complaining?

    Anonymous @12:32pm, if you want to be sarcastic and insulting, that is not a problem, as far as I am concerned. Your comments combined with you anonymous status shows that you are not serious about having a discussion on this topic. As such, the comments you make carry little value. However, if you do want to have a serious conversation, and I would welcome that, then please feel free to contact me. Maybe you can show me how to ditch that ole “tin cap”.

    It is probably a waste of time and energy answering your questions, or even trying to have a sane conversation with you, but it cost me nothing but a bit of time, to at the very least, make an effort and offer to do so.


  9. I did get a response from Dan yesterday. He pointed out that the fee structure is based on two components. The first component is that there are fixed costs; bookkeeping and other staff, meter readers, infrastructure and the like. Those fixed costs are why they charge a minimum fee. The second component is the actual water usage. His argument is that they have the two components and then add them together for the water bill. He and city staff argue that this is a reasonable and fair way to implement and construct the water and sewer fees. Even though I disagree to the fairness of it, I can see their argument of it as fair and reasonable from their point of view.

    My concerns centered on the effect this has on people who use little water per month and those who actively conserve. The effect of the current rate structures on these people is to make them pay more per 1,000 gallons than others who are much more liberal with water use.

    While they view the rate structure from a 2 component point of view, I view it from a single component view point; take the total expense and divide it proportional to use. From my point of view, the current rate structure is not entirely fair to those at the lower end of the usage segment.