Stott: Fight fee increases with creativity

Published: Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013 5:30 a.m.CDT

Sycamore City Manager Brian Gregory recommended the City Council consider water and sewer fee hikes this week to bridge a spending gap in the municipality’s 2014 budget.

Discussion at Monday’s meeting indicated that to keep up with the costs of required maintenance to the city’s water and wastewater treatment systems, the council will consider a fee increase in the future.

It’s often controversial when government increases fees charged to the public. Who wants to pay more money simply to maintain their current habits?

Sycamore residents who don’t want the water and sewer fees to increase could protest. They could send a letter to the editor to the Daily Chronicle or the Midweek. They could visit a Sycamore City Council meeting to voice their opinion to the decision-makers.

If the increase is approved, they could take a different approach. They could change their habits and use less water so the fee increase doesn’t make their regular bill higher.

The nice thing about user fees is that they apply at the rate in which a resource is consumed.

Don’t find yourself caring much about increases in gas prices? You probably don’t have to drive very far to work every day.

Never ridden in an ambulance? Then a hike in ambulance fees probably doesn’t bother you terribly.

If you’re worried about a hike in municipal water fees, become a person who carefully conserves water. Take shorter showers; do less laundry. Quit watering the lawn, or trade the grass for some hardy prairie plants that don’t require much hydration.

In many cases, residents who claim government traps them with fees just aren’t thinking creatively enough.

Of course, the city intends for the fee hike to generate money. This strategy isn’t meant to cheat Sycamore out of money it needs for repairs and preventative maintenance.

But if the city increased water and sewer rates and residents responded by curbing their water usage en masse, it would show the municipality that they won’t stand for a fee hike. The plan to raise funding for maintenance would backfire, and prove that residents don’t agree with the increase.

More likely, only a few residents will consciously use less if fees increase.

It might not have an overall impact on water usage fee income, but those who conserve will have a cheaper bill and will be saving a precious resource.

• • •

The DeKalb Police Department plans to launch a smartphone application that would allow witnesses to crimes and suspicious activity to submit anonymous reports to local authorities. According to a Daily Chronicle report from Tuesday, the plan is part of the department’s “20/20 A Clear Vision for the Future” campaign.

The department will launch 20 initiatives in 20 months with hopes of increased engagement with residents. There are many theories on how to engage residents, but perhaps the best way to test success in a community is through trial and error.

Although some of these initiatives may fail, the DeKalb Police Department is taking a strategic approach to learning what will work and what won’t. The community should help by being responsive to these efforts and providing the department with feedback.

• Lauren Stott is a Maple Park native and a graduate student at Northern Illinois University in the master of public administration program. She can be reached at lauren_stott@yahoo.com.

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