Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A tale of two cities and their utility systems

Note: This column appears in the 6/25 issue of The Glendale Star and the 6/26 issue of the Peoria Times

Note II: If THAT title doesn't grab your attention, then nothing will


There are few things as exciting to discuss as utility bills. Nevertheless, two cities seem to be moving in opposite directions when it comes to energy efficiency and waste management.

It was revealed last week that the city of Glendale will be raising rates beginning in October, and that the typical family –- that is, the family that uses water and produces waste –- will pay around $86 more per year on their water and sewer bills.

The reason for the price hike is simple. The creator of water –- God –- has decided to charge the city of Glendale more to distribute His product, due to, ya’ know, the economy and all. Plus, sewage is gross and smells bad.

Besides these factors, most Glendale residents are confused and upset about the rate hike, especially those on a fixed income. At this vulnerable time, it seems as though “the economy” can become an excuse for almost anything. The reality is that people and companies are adjusting, and the costs of many things are lowering, not increasing. In turn, the timing of this rate hike -– with so many people out of work as it is -– is curious at best. If the city were honest, they would have released this explanation: “We are unsure what will happen to our hockey team in the long run, and have therefore made the difficult decision to raise sewage costs.”

On the contrary, councilwoman Joyce Clark had this to say: “Unless we become geniuses in water distribution, the cost is going to go up.”

And there you have it. Until the city of Glendale has –- either by birth or through the hiring process -– a water distribution genius, the cost will go up. Never mind being proactive about improving the process. They will instead raise costs as they wait for the Albert Einstein of water distribution to make himself known.

Meanwhile, the city of Peoria is getting money back.

That’s right. APS (Arizona Public Services) has provided the city with an almost $55,000 rebate in recognition of the Development & Community Services Building that opened almost three years ago.

The building itself has been an energy efficiency model, with advances in heating and cooling systems, as well as lighting. To boot, the city itself has been extremely proactive in taking energy efficiency measures, which have included the installation of LED lights at municipal facilities, advanced airflow systems, and thermostat adjustment.

All of these ideas and measures were enacted by Peoria’s resident heating, cooling, and lighting genius, who is actually the brother-in-law of the city’s resident water distribution genius, who has been busy in her own right.

For example, Peoria also recently made the decision to replace the water fountain in front of City Hall with two new towers as its main source of cooling energy. The towers, according to Design and Construction Manager Ed Striffer (not a genius, but close), will result in water savings up to 80 percent.

So while Peoria is at the forefront of energy efficiency, Glendale is raising utility costs with little to no explanation other than a shrug of the shoulders and “the economy” as a convenient scapegoat. One can only hope that after a day of explaining away increased costs amidst a period of deflation, that the leaders of Glendale remember to, at the very least, turn the lights off.

1 comment:

Bill said...

Companies (or in this case, a city) using the economy as an excuse to gouge people has become one of my hot button issues lately. (Before that, I didn't even know I HAD a hot button.) It doesn't seem either legitimate, or fair, because both the seller and the consumer are facing the same, harsher circumstances. I just wish it could work both ways. Example...

Big Airline: "Due to rising fuel costs, we will now be adding a $15 'fuel surcharge' per customer."

Customer: "Okay, that's fine...I in return will be applying a $20 'consumer hardship credit.'"