The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

April 30, 2014

Apartment owners plead for rate break

MANKATO — For at least the third time, Mankato apartment complex owners and managers are asking the city to reconsider water utility fee changes that will hit rental units hard.

The changes were originally slated to take effect at the beginning of this year, but the Mankato City Council agreed to delay them until July 1 to give apartment complexes time to adjust rents or otherwise prepare to pay a larger water bill each month. With July 1 fast approaching, a quartet of representatives of the industry made their appeal again this week.

"I'm asking you to go backwards," said Dean Doyscher, owner of Security Management and Realty, which manages several local apartment buildings. "Going backwards is better than doing the wrong thing."

The wrong thing, in the eyes of Doyscher and other operators of large apartment buildings, is charging $4.51 a month for virtually every residential unit in the city, whether it's a single-family home, a duplex, a townhome or an apartment. Currently, the city charges the basic water service charge for each water meter in Mankato plus an additional charge for the volume of water consumed.

That approach has favored multi-unit apartment buildings, which typically have just a single meter even if the building has dozens of apartments. The change is being made in part to generate more income because revenue raised by existing water rates wasn't enough to fully cover the operations, maintenance and eventual replacement of the roughly $150 million worth of facilities that provide clean drinking water and treatment of wastewater and sewage.

The city is also mandated by state law to put in place water conservation measures, which is prompting an end to volume discounts for large users of water. Industry and other major consumers of water now get a 40 percent discount on water consumed beyond 225,000 gallons.

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