One of the first orders of business for the new City Council next year will be to consider an ordinance amending how water meter rates are calculated for owner-occupied four-unit residential buildings. During last Monday night’s Ways and Means Subcommittee meeting, an ordinance filed by Ward 4 Councillor Patrick Keefe was tabled until the New Year. Keefe is seeking to allow the owner-occupied four-unit buildings to pay a residential, rather than a commercial, rate.
Outgoing City Council President Anthony Zambuto said he had some issues with the ordinance regarding the criteria and that he wants to know more about the process of who was on the commercial rates and who was on residential rates. “I think there is a lot to talk about and a lot to be investigated,” said Zambuto. “That’s my position on this; I know it’s not a popular position, but for 22 years, I didn’t hold popular positions up here, and I don’t intend to start on my last night.”
Councillor-at-Large George Rotondo said that rather than the ordinance that was presented, he believes the city should move to a tiered system for water rates. “Moreover, there are ways to evade the process in which people who do not actually live in the property and live elsewhere and rent out the property can also get the benefit,” said Rotondo. “Meanwhile, renters within thousands of various properties in the city are having to pay a commercial rate because they rent.”
Ward 6 Councillor Richard Serino agreed with Zambuto that the issue deserves further discussion. “We have a whole new council session coming up; we should take some time and make sure we know what we are voting on and what the criteria is and why we are choosing that criteria,” said Serino.
Ward 2 Councillor Ira Novoselsky, speaking as a tenant and resident, said the City Council should act quicker to take care of the owner-occupied homeowners, and that the delays could hurt renters due to increased water bills. “There are about 40 homeowners in the city who are affected by this, and I think it would be up to the administration to set the rules and the guidelines of who would be or who wouldn’t be eligible for this,” said Novoselsky. “So I am disappointed that you won’t be bringing it up this year.”
Novoselsky said he doesn’t agree with some of the discussions around creating a tiered system, or including eight-unit owner-occupied buildings in the ordinance, adding that he believes four- to six-unit owner-occupied buildings would be appropriate. “All I know is that my rent is going to go up, and I feel bad for those people who really can’t afford it and those tenants who are going to have to pay the price,” Novoselsky said.