Montgomery County council members this week expressed reservations over the new water and sewer rates proposed by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.
Under the WSSC's proposal, intended to encourage conservation, the size of a customer's bill would depend on the amounts of water used. But as some council members pointed out at Tuesday's council meeting, a basic problem with such a "prgressive rate structure" is that it does not take into consideration a customer's water needs.
Council member Jane Ann Moore said larger families would be unjustly penalized since, by necessity, they use more water than smaller households, even if the larger family makes a concerted effort to conserve water.
"When they (large families) have been conserving, their efforts should be rewarded," Moore said. The proposed rate structure, she added "tends to punish" those families."
Under the proposed rates, homeowners using less than 350 gallons a day would have their water and sewer bills reduced by an estimated $6 to $35 a year. In the non-residential category, which includes industries, businesses, apartments and government office buildings, rates for users would increase an average of 3.4 per cent.
Council member Neal Potter said that a sliding scale rate offers no incentive to apartment dwellers to conserve since water consumption in an apartment building is registered on one meter for the entire building and tenants are not billed directly for their water use.
TheWSSC's water and sewer rates currently are based on metered water consumption, with the charge per 1,000 gallons remaining the same regardless of the amount used. Under the new system the charge per 1,000 gallons would rise or fall according to a customer's daily water consumption.
"The whole (proposed rate) system is not applicable to apartments. We need a system that charges everybody for what he actually uses," Potter said.
The WSSC is conducting hearings on the proposed rate structure. A hearing is scheduled tonight at 8 o'clock at the WSSC's main office building in Hyattsville. Future hearings will be held Oct. 17 at 8 p.m. in Gaithersburg Junior High School and Nov. 3 at 8 p.m. at the WSSC building in Hyattsville.