Something stinks at sanitation district
I recently received the Aspen Consolidated Sanitation District’s fee notice for the first calendar quarter of 2011.
The current fee for my home is $164, an increase over two calendar years of about $27 or 18 percent. The fee rate in 2009 was $137 per calendar quarter. In 2010, the fee was raised to $147 per calendar quarter.
This increase is being assessed by a quasi-governmental agency in an economic climate of inflation of just 1 percent to 2 percent per annum, according to the Bureau of Economic Statistics. (What exactly is the definition of a “quasi” governmental agency? Are you a county agency or a city agency or a Tuesday politician’s group that meets with secret agendas? Who appoints its leadership? Do you serve for compensation? Do you receive perks and other non-direct forms of compensation that may be hidden from public view?)
I have conducted some research and determined that the Consolidated Sanitation District assesses its fee on the basis of the number of water “outlets” in each home – the number of baths or showers, outside watering spigots, sinks, commodes, dishwashers, washing machines, etc. rather than on actual usage rates. A home with a lower number of hook-ups but uses a vast amount of water (due to the density of occupants) – and creates much more in the way of sewage to be processed – is assessed at a much lower rate than other homes with many hook-ups but very few residents throughout the year.
The perverted “logic” is that the home could be using far more water that ultimately goes down the drain and requires sewage processing. This is an inherently faulty premise; it is opposite the basis of utility charges in the same geographical area for water, electricity, gas and telephone – governed by utility boards that usually pass through an independent review by utility commissioners responsible to their constituency.
The fact is that the amount of sewage processed is directly correlated with the amount of non-agricultural water (for farming, lawn maintenance, etc.) that goes down the drain. Granted, sewage from a commode is likely more expensive to process than water from a dishwasher or washing machine; raw sewage versus soapy water.
The simple formula is “input equals output.” The meter reading on the water bill – based upon actual not theoretical consumption – is the best and most accurate indication (and measure) of the quantity of the sewage being processed on behalf of a residence.
Utilizing the logic of the Aspen Consolidated Sanitation District is tantamount to requiring a homeowner to pay an electric bill on the basis of the number of outlets in a home. This is in contrast to the metering of the actual power consumption in that home.
On what basis can your quasi-governmental agency deem to charge local users using this erroneous methodology?
Regardless of how many bathrooms, sinks or showers in a home, your current policy has little real bearing on the usage of the sanitation district’s facilities. I live in Aspen about 4 months a year. I am single. I have three children who visit for a cumulative two weeks a year. There are residents in town crowded into a single rental that use far more water – and create far more sewage – than those of us who are part-time residents.
I do not run a business office out of my home. I do not rent to outsiders. My usage of water and the processing of sewage is de minimus compared to many homes with two-parent families, multiple children, frequent guests, etc. The current billing methodology of the Aspen Consolidated Sanitation District is disproportionate and unrelated to usage.
This constitutes another hidden and unrepresentative tax based solely on the ability to pay – not usage. This is a clever additional charge on large homes in Aspen that are required by some convoluted logic to subsidize other residents. Surprise: Most of these homes are second homes with non-voting taxpayers.
In essence, it is the ability to pay rather than the amount of sewage that is being “taxed” by your “agency.” I will advocate for a change in this unfair system of non-representative governance. Your agency’s practices must be open to public hearings and likely a conclusion that this methodology is inherently unfair and unrepresentative under our current democratic process.
There must be a mathematical system that takes into account metering of the amount of sewage processed by homes in the district in contrast to the current inadequate, illogical and non-correlated method of charging for community sewage services on a basis other than actual usage.
I expect a coherent airing of your current policies, the rationale for these policies and some movement toward a more fair system of charges based upon consumers’ usage of your agency’s services.
David J. Kudish
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