Bismarck will delay the billing of utility fees, for an unknown amount of time, on properties that do not possess a water meter, to allow city staff time to discuss alternative strategies for the implementation of the new rates.
“It has become apparent that we will need additional time to set up accounts due to the transition from the old utility billing system to our New World billing system, and we may want to reconsider our original intent on how the new rates are applied to developed parcels without water meters and parcels without development,” said Keith Hunke, city administrator.
Earlier this month, local homebuilders raised concerns over the new city fees that would charge for utilities on empty lots.
The cost to developers and lot owners is $20 per month for an empty lot and $30.95 for a lot with a structure but no meter.
There's also a stormwater fee increase — $300 per 1,000 square feet — meaning an average 15,000-square-foot lot went from $1,050 in fees to $4,500. And a new formula for evaluating property value is raising the cost of building permits.
“The intent of the redesign of those water utility rates and the structure was to establish a consistent application of the rates across all property types within Bismarck, including residential and commercial accounts with water meters, developed parcels without water meters and parcels without development,” Hunke said.
City Director of Utility Operations Michelle Klose indicated the fees are a way to pay off debt on the city's utility infrastructure.
The city will continue billing accounts that have water meters at the new rates, but will delay the billing of utility fees, at least until February, on properties that do not possess a water meter.
“If we’re short money at the end of the year because we delayed this a month, I don’t want to hear complaints about why we might have to make changes in certain projects or scopes of projects because, quite frankly, we’re reacting to their request to dig into this deeper,” said Commissioner Josh Askvig.
Additional information is expected to be provided at the Feb. 13 city commission meeting.
Reporter Jessica Holdman contributed to this story.