Council to study group’s proposal to conserve water

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Kathleen Foody
Saturday, August 22, 2009
— If city residents will be paying higher water rates, the water utility should lead conservation efforts, according to a statewide activist group.

The Janesville City Council will consider a resolution authorizing city staff to develop a conservation plan at its meeting Monday. The water utility would be charged with developing strategies to educate the community, provide rebates and audit commercial users.

Clean Wisconsin, the advocacy group, began lobbying for a conservation plan when the city filed for a water rate adjustment with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin.

The commission granted Clean Wisconsin third-party intervention status on the request, putting the group on even ground with the city.

“They have an interest in more sustainable conservation practices and having those incorporated into our operations,” Assistant City Manager Jay Winzenz said.

The agreement the council will consider on Monday was created by the water utility after negotiations with Clean Wisconsin. The $75,000 annual budget included in that plan was “more than the city wanted, but significantly less than originally requested (by Clean Wisconsin),” according to a memo to the council from Director of Utilities Dan Lynch.

Winzenz could not recall the exact budget that Clean Wisconsin proposed but said it was more than $100,000.

The budget for a conservation plan would ultimately be passed along to Janesville water customers, and the city felt the request was too high, he said. The Public Service Commission will have to factor in the budget for the conservation program when it develops new rates.

Clean Wisconsin also requested that the city immediately begin conservation efforts including toilet rebates.

“Other cities began programs like toilet rebates right away, but we felt that was jumping ahead one step,” Winzenz said. “We prefer to first put together a program that works for our area and then implement.”

The city’s initial rate increase request did include one mechanism to encourage conservation, and it likely will be included in the plan. The rate structure in place now gives a discount to large-volume users: the more water they use, the lower the cost for each increment. The city proposed the commission include a “conservation rate,” that flips the system and charges a lower rate per increment for those who use smaller amounts of water.

In a previous interview with the Gazette, Lynch said the average quarterly water bill in Janesville is $40.

The city applied for the 14.75 percent rate increase “because of capital improvements, the drop in water sales because of General Motors and an increase in operational expenses.”

Also on the agenda

The Janesville City Council is scheduled to meet Monday at 7 p.m. in the city council chambers of municipal building, 18 N. Jackson St.

Among the items on the agenda are:

-- Discussion on preparation of an Emergency Evacuation plan to facilitate reconstruction of 1709 Joseph St.

-- Discussion of televising study sessions on JATV.

-- Action on proposal to approve city acquisition of 407 Lincoln St., and 212 Madison St., under the Neighborhood Stabilization Act for foreclosed or abandoned properties.

-- Presentation on a proposed Ice Skating Center Advisory Committee.

Last updated: 11:06 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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