Bayfield sewer rates are unfair to customers who use very little water and put very little into the sewer system, Gem Village resident Larry Coey complained to town trustees on Oct. 7.
He said he lives alone in a 624-square-foot house and pays as much as a big family in a big house.
The current rate is $49.74 per month per residential unit. Businesses are charged according to their number of Equivalent Residential Taps (ERTs).
Coey said he has lived on County Road 507 for more than 40 years. He asserted he has paid more in sewer fees, including his legal costs on two foreclosure proceedings initiated by the now-defunct Bayfield Sanitation District, than he has paid for his house.
"I'm on a fixed income," he said. "I don't understand how out of simple fairness that one person can be charged the same as a family of six people that uses as much (water) in a morning as I use in a week."
He said he has a shallow well that doesn't produce much water.
Mayor Rick Smith said, "We certainly understand your position. ... We've struggled with this." He noted trustees looked last winter at basing rates on a household's winter water consumption when there is no yard watering. But Gem Village doesn't get town water.
"That's what makes it so difficult to find the balance between being equitable and running the sewer plant. That's where the money goes," Smith said. "There's more regulation that adds overhead. We understand your plight. We struggled with this."
Coey continued, "There are other people the same as me, a lot of little houses."
Coey sent a letter about this to the town in February. Town Manager Chris La May sent a response letter in March, saying, "The town considered establishing a separate rate for Gem Village based on allocating all measured flows from the Gem Village Lift Station across the number of ERTs assigned to Gem Village; however, that monthly rate would have been significantly higher than the monthly rate you are now paying."
La May's letter also said that if the town hadn't taken sewage from Gem Village, villagers would have had to build their own treatment plant, again resulting in substantially higher monthly rates.
Coey didn't get any offers to change the way sewer fees are charged. He was advised to check into whether he was eligible for a town utility price break for age 55 and older.