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Thread: Erie County Water Price Increase.

  1. #1
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    Erie County Water Price Increase.

    In a report by Gary Howell that I just read here, there is a claim that the Erie County Water Authority is proposing a 3% to 4% rate increase (at least in part) due to a decrease in demand. Does anyone have a link that will verify the ECWA's position? Thank you.

  2. #2
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    Apparently, someone contacted the ECWA about Gary Howell's comments regarding a water rate hike. The ECWA's Brian Gould responded and I received it from a friend. Due to my familiarity with who forwarded it to me, I trust that it was not edited. It surely puts a different light on Howell's claims..

    The ECWA has not begun its budget proceedings for the 2005 fiscal year. That
    process begins in early October. At that time, a detailed budget analysis
    will be performed and rate projections for out years will be included. At
    this point, it is too early to predict if there will be an increase or, if
    so, what it will be. What Mr. Howell failed to highlight in his article as
    reasons for a potential rate hike were increased costs for employee health
    insurance, pensions, and general insurance premiums. And yes, this was the
    wettest summer in memory for Western New York, which does have a direct
    impact on the amount of water that is delivered to customers and our bottom
    line. However, we do budget for the potential of low customer demand.
    Unfortunately, according to our records this year was the lowest in the
    history of the ECWA.

    The fact that the assumption of a rate increase was included in a local
    publication in Lancaster is rather difficult to understand from the ECWA's
    perspective. Specifically, because prior to becoming customers of the ECWA
    on January 1, 2003, residents of Lancaster were paying $4.11 per 1,000
    gallons of delivered water. When Lancaster ratepayers became customers of
    the ECWA, their rate decreased to $2.35/1,000 gallons. Today that rate
    remains roughly 60 % less at $2.51/1,000 gallons. The ECWA continues to
    charge one of the lowest water rates in New York State. We are confident in
    our record of service and the quality product that is delivered to our
    customers.

    I hope this addresses your questions. If our rate is increased, our
    customers will be well informed prior to it taking effect. In addition, feel
    free to call me anytime to voice any additional concerns you may have.

    Brian A. Gould
    Public Affairs Officer
    Erie County Water Authority
    (716) 849-8468


    It sure calls into question the accuracy, legitimacy, validity, origin and motivation of Gary S Howell's comments.

  3. #3
    Tony Fracasso - Admin
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    Good point. Just curious... why would they have raised rates because there was a high demand of water when we had a dry summer? Wouldn't they have made more profit anyhow moving more water to start with?

  4. #4

    Erie County Water Authority

    The Erie County Water Authority sent the following response to an article I wrote titled, “Water, Water Everywhere, But it’s Still Going to Cost More!”

    “The ECWA has not begun its budget proceedings for the 2005 fiscal year. That
    process begins in early October. At that time, a detailed budget analysis
    will be performed and rate projections for out years will be included. At
    this point, it is too early to predict if there will be an increase or, if
    so, what it will be. What Mr. Howell failed to highlight in his article as
    reasons for a potential rate hike were increased costs for employee health
    insurance, pensions, and general insurance premiums. And yes, this was the
    wettest summer in memory for Western New York, which does have a direct
    impact on the amount of water that is delivered to customers and our bottom
    line. However, we do budget for the potential of low customer demand.
    Unfortunately, according to our records this year was the lowest in the
    history of the ECWA.

    The fact that the assumption of a rate increase was included in a local
    publication in Lancaster is rather difficult to understand from the ECWA's
    perspective. Specifically, because prior to becoming customers of the ECWA
    on January 1, 2003, residents of Lancaster were paying $4.11 per 1,000
    gallons of delivered water. When Lancaster ratepayers became customers of
    the ECWA, their rate decreased to $2.35/1,000 gallons. Today that rate
    remains roughly 60 % less at $2.51/1,000 gallons. The ECWA continues to
    charge one of the lowest water rates in New York State. We are confident in
    our record of service and the quality product that is delivered to our
    customers.

    I hope this addresses your questions. If our rate is increased, our
    customers will be well informed prior to it taking effect. In addition, feel
    free to call me anytime to voice any additional concerns you may have.

    Brian A. Gould
    Public Affairs Officer
    Erie County Water Authority
    (716) 849-8468

    First, my source.

    A transcript of tape-recorded comments made by Supervisor Robert Giza at the Lancaster town board meeting of September 7, 2004:

    “I went to the water authority annual report dinner. They said they didn’t pump enough water this summer, because it was so wet, they are going to probably have to raise their rates.

    They are thinking of looking at a 3 to 4 percent increase in the rates.

    They didn’t pump a lot of water this summer.

    And my next question was, “Well, if we pump more next year, will they lower the rates?

    I doubt it.”

    In “Water, Water Everywhere,” I did not cite health insurance, pensions, and general insurance premiums as a contributory factor to rate increases. I believe Mr. Gould when he says these items will add to a rate increase.

    Mr. Gould stated the water authority budgets for low demand years and then qualifies his statement by saying, “And yes, this was the wettest summer in memory for Western New York, which does have a direct impact on the amount of water that is delivered to customers and our bottom line.”

    Does that mean that the lack of demand will be a contributory factor to a rate hike?

    The comments on the article coming from a Lancaster resident are a red herring. It has absolutely nothing to do with the original article I wrote. It is my opinion the comments were thrown in to confuse the issue.

    The Erie County Water Authority did not lower water rates simply because they took over the village’s water system. Yes, our basic water rates went down. They went down because village rates were higher.

    Lancaster’s village board was intelligent enough to realize that taxpayers could no longer afford the high price of a village run system. The object of the transfer was to decrease the expense of a public utility to property owners.

    The Erie County Water Authority does not charge village residents less than they charge other customers. If the ECWA increases water rates, village of Lancaster residents will pay the higher fee.

    What Mr. Gould failed to mention is that the ECWA added a surcharge to village of Lancaster customers. The surcharge is to pay for infrastructure improvements to the system formerly owned by the village. The surcharge will gradually be reduced until the ECWA collects the necessary funds to make the improvements.

    From 11/14/2003 to 5/14/2004, that surcharge cost me $36.66. My total water bill for the same period was $103.01. Basically, 36 percent of my water bill did not go to pay for water. It paid for a specific surcharge that is not levied against other municipalities.

    My water bills for the last six months that the village controlled the water system totaled, $98.64.

    At this point in time, ECWA bills to village of Lancaster residents are higher than they were before the water authority took over our system. As the surcharge drops, village water bills will go down. But, again, right now, village residents are paying more than they used to.

    An anonymous person who goes by the cognomen of “Amherst Stakeholder” posted Mr. Gould’s comments. The “Stakeholder” inserted this comment after Mr. Gould’s statement:

    “It sure calls into question the accuracy, legitimacy, validity, origin and motivation of Gary S Howell's comments.”

    Okay, Mr. Gould’s comments do raise questions about the accuracy of “Water, Water Everywhere. But this is a common problem when recording information disseminated by public officials. The Lancaster town supervisor specifically said the water authority was raising rates because they didn’t pump enough water this year. Mr. Gould doesn’t specifically deny this statement, but he does cite other factors that Mr. Giza did not name.

    As far as the legitimacy, validity, origin and motivation factors are concerned, Mr. Gould and myself had the guts to attach our names to our articles. Amherst Stakeholder could be anyone. No one knows what his motivations are. No one knows if his comments are accurate, legitimate, or valid.

  5. #5
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    First Howell states:
    Due to this year’s low demand for water, the ECWA is planning to raise water rates.
    Then Howell states:
    The Erie County Water Authority now wants to increase water rates from three to four percent because the decreased demand diminished revenues.
    Howell's source for these assertions: Lancaster Town Supervisor Robert Giza. Although if you read what Howell alledges Giza actually said, it's quite different from what Howell wrote. Apparently, when talking of a rate increase Giza said:
    probably
    and
    thinking of
    Why rely (apparently solely) on the Lancaster Town Supervisor for information that could only be internal (and premature) information about the ECWA? Why?

    Howell also asserts:
    ECWA is running short of operating capital.
    Howell provides no source. Maybe they are, but it sounds more like a guess.

    Howell poses the following question that includes the premise that a rate increase has been requested:
    So why is the ECWA asking for a rate increase using low usage as its reason?
    Have they asked? No.

  6. #6
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    Re: Erie County Water Authority

    Originally posted by gshowell Amherst Stakeholder could be anyone. No one knows what his motivations are. No one knows if his comments are accurate, legitimate, or valid.
    Yes, I could be anyone. It should be enough to know that I'm just a regular citizen/resident that researches wild and shocking claims made about matters that are likely to suck cash out of my pocket. That should answer questions about my motivation, too. Which, thanks to a friends quick and alert attention, was executed in this case. Regarding my accuracy/legitimacy/validity, if my comments fall short, I'll assume the resonsibility. I'm pleased that I've not had to do that in this case.

  7. #7
    This will be my last reply on the subject.

    Your insistence on anonymity raises doubts on the personal descriptions you attribute to yourself.

    How much credence would you give to comments attributed to anonymous sources?

    ************************************

    Water, Sources, and Research
    Gary S. Howell
    September 8, 2004


    On July 26, 2004, the Buffalo News ran an article titled, “Extra Rain Could be Leaving Utility Dry”. The article was written by Matthew Spina and is available in the news archives.

    An anonymous web blogger recently questioned a statement made in the article “Water, Water Everywhere, But it’s Still Going to Cost More. The man with no name suggested that a statement included in the article saying that the Erie County Water Authority is running short of capital sounded more like a guess.”

    The “Extra Rain” article contains two quotes that were used as a basis for the statement.

    “This year, the authority projects a budget shortfall of $2.2 million.”

    “With July and August its busiest months, the authority projects it would have to sell an unlikely 105 million gallons a day over the next 30 days to pull itself out of the deficit.”

    The article goes on to say “The staff is looking at ways to tighten the budget belt to finish the year and isn’t broaching another rate increase yet.”

    The article also paraphrased ECWA Public Affairs Officer Brian Gould, saying “…officials are considering myriad ways to save money rather than raise rates”.

    That was in July.

    What’s happened since?

    The National Weather Service estimates that August’s rainfall was 2.01 inches below normal. They also estimate that the average temperature was 1.9 degrees below normal.

    More than likely, the below normal average temperature did not inspire consumers to use more water.

    On Monday evening, Lancaster’s town supervisor was tape-recording making the following comments:

    “I went to the water authority annual report dinner. They said they didn’t pump enough water this summer, because it was so wet, they are going to probably have to raise their rates.”

    “They are thinking of looking at a 3 to 4 percent increase in the rates.”

    The pseudonymous doubter paid more attention to the qualifiers than the content of the message. He interpreted the “probably” used in the first quote differently than it’s actual meaning of “:insofar as seems reasonably true, factual, or to be expected: without much doubt” (Merriam Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary)

    He also questioned “thinking of looking” in the second quote. In the context of the quote, “thinking of looking” means that they are considering a 3 to 4 percent increase.

    The cryptonymous questioner goes on to say, “Why rely (apparently solely) on the Lancaster town supervisor for information that could only be internal (and premature) information about the ECWA.”

    Reliance on information regarding the negative financial effects of heavy rainfall came from more than one source. This information and my original assertion that water rates would rise because of it were not questioned when I editorialized on the subject in late July?

    The information on a three to four percent rate hike may have been internal. After it was passed on to guests at the Water Authority annual report dinner, it lost its internality.

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