Opinion: Stop the Double Charging of Salida Utility Fees

Congratulations to our new mayor and council. In the spirit of our quest to provide affordable housing, I ask our new mayor and council to right an ongoing wrong.

How can the City of Salida mayor and council say they are concerned about the shortage of affordable long-term rental units, when they enforce a punitive and illegal policy directed towards duplexes that currently provide those rentals?

Let me explain.

Some older duplexes in the City have one water/sewer tap, but are charged two water/sewer service and maintenance fees for servicing and maintaining one tap. I am the owner of one of those duplexes. Current Salida code charges by “the number of units associated with each account”. My modest duplex is charged 2x the water service fee, sewer service fee, and water maintenance fee of a single family residence. Why? Because I am providing a rental unit for our community.

According to the definition of a fee provided by state statute, it is illegal to charge double service fees for one service. It does not cost twice as much to service or maintain my one tap just because it services two units. The City is only responsible to the point of the metered tap.

I have contacted several water municipalities and none of them implement the double charging of fees for one tap that serves two units. They either charge fees by the tap, or by the equivalent unit method (charge more for a luxury home with many bathrooms and gourmet kitchen, etc).

Salida municipal code illegally allows this practice. I brought this to the attention of Mayor LiVecchi and council on February 17, 2017. I again brought this to the mayor’s attention several times after that, including at a Housing Task Force meeting. I never received a response from the mayor.

This City policy is not only illegal but is also hostile to the affordable housing mantra espoused by the mayor and council. At the same time, deals are being negotiated with developers to lower their tap fees so that housing is more affordable. What about us that are currently providing rental units but paying double fees? Hello?

I filed a CORA to obtain a list of duplexes charged two fees for one tap, and was told by the City that they have no documents to fulfill my request. Interesting. If you are a duplex owner paying two service and maintenance fees for one tap, please contact me at cyndagreen@gmail.com.

The City of Salida needs to stop treating duplex rentals as cash cows, but to treat them as valuable solutions to the current rental crisis. I respectfully ask the new mayor and council to remedy this travesty and revise the illegal code that punishes property owners for having a rental unit.

Cynda Green

Cynda Green is an investigative reporter who enjoys writing about various and sundry topics, least of which is politics. But someone has to do it. Contact: cyndagreen@gmail.com