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I am sure that the last thing you wanted me to write about was the recent increase in water rates for single-family homes. Yes, I was one of those dastardly 7,600 residents who received this reprimand letter from the Bismarck Department of Public Works informing me that my personal water usage was excessive and that because of my misdeeds, it was apparent to them that I be severely punished.

First, a few comments about said letter. It stated that I personally used 31 units of water last August at a billing of $89.90. Wrong. My August charge for said 31 units was actually billed at the rate of $97.40. Where did they get their figures from … out of thin air? The letter goes on to say that the new rate for the 31 units will now be $163.55, which means that my total bill for the month will be $225.28. That is a 70.63% increase. The letter goes on to say that my property should use only 10 units per month at a new cost of $27.74 per month. I used 7 units in March 2019 when I did not water my lawn at all (it was winter) and the rate, I was charged for those 7 units was $32.16. Again, out of thin air.

 So, I have some questions for our public works department, our city commissioners and whomever came up with this idea.

If this increase is only about preventing a revenue shortfall of $1 million then why are not all water users in Bismarck having to pay for it? Also, what will be the revenue shortfall as the city continues to expand? I would like to know what the different water rates are for large green spaces like MDU and the state Capitol grounds? What rates are used to keep all the golf courses green and lush? What rates do commercial properties pay as opposed to us? Don’t believe for a second that there are not different rates for different users. I will give you a recent example. This occurred in the city of Colorado Springs, Colo., where the city agreed to have a high-class, private, members-only golf course built using taxpayer monies and its water bill every month was zero while the rest of the city had water rationing and single-family homes could only water on certain days and no more than twice a week.

The public works department considers peak periods as summer months and non-peak periods during winter. Most utility departments have peak and non-peak periods during the day, not by season. So, watering at night is not an option. Also, nowhere on our city water bill does it list the start and end of the billing cycle. I assume that it is from the date of when the meter is read to the next reading of the meter, but who knows because nothing on my billing has matched up to what the public works department has been reporting. Also, just how many gallons of water are there in a unit? Also, what table was included with said letter because my letter had no table of usage? I would like someone brave enough to answer my questions. Anyone?

I have lived here for most of my life and I do not mind paying my fair share, but I believe that this rate increase is totally unfair to all single-family residents and my only means of cutting back is to decrease the amount that I water my property. So, since I live on a corner and my lot measures roughly 85 feet by 116 feet, that means that about 200 feet of the boulevard will be the first to die off due to a lack of moisture. I hope the city has a lot of green spray paint.

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Bob Cartledge was born and raised in Bismarck and lived here most of his life. He is retired after working close to 30 years for the North Dakota State Penitentiary, where he supervised the Treatment Unit. He was recently a member of the city’s Special Assessment Task Force. He and his wife were therapeutic foster parents for over 20 years with Path of North Dakota. He is an avid hunter, especially upland birds, and a part-time blogger.

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