My wife and I came to Prior Lake six years ago and bought a nice, modest townhouse on Deerfield Drive S.E. As retired newcomers, we’ve found a wonderful community with many neighbors and townspeople who are exceptionally friendly and helpful. No disappointments…until a few days ago.
That’s when we received a flyer from the Public Works Department saying that the city is developing a “Private Street Utility Surcharge” at a rate of $40 per billing cycle. That’s $240 a year that will be added to our water and sewage bill beginning in 2021. Their reasoning: “The cost of maintaining private streets is the financial responsibility of the private property owners.”
We do that now. As members of the Deerfield Coach Homes Association, we help to take on that monetary responsibility with part of our monthly association fee. The association, in turn, pays private contractors to plow and remove snow from our streets, fill any cracks and potholes, and perform other work to keep everything safe and looking good. City crews and equipment are not involved.
Going a step further, the city says a “…source of funding is necessary to cover the cost of replacing the private street when the utilities are replaced.” There’s no argument there, either. But in advance in supposition of the timing of future events? You can characterize that action as a “pig in a poke.”
Just do the simple math. There are 222 units within our association complex. Those 222 ownerships multiplied by an annual fee of $240 equals $53,280. Over a 10-year period, that adds up to a whopping $532,800. And we’re just one of other townhouse associations throughout the city whose members are being impinged by a surcharge in pursuit of free money rather than timely accountability.
That’s like your doctor saying, “Pay me now for treating any of your future ailments.” Or your mechanic demanding cash in advance for any repairs once you go beyond a specified number of odometer miles.
Now consider this. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the lifespan for metals used for main water lines is 40 to 70 years for brass, 50 years for copper, and 20 to 50 years for galvanized steel. Other statistics show that cast iron pipes last from 75 to 100 years; clay pipes from five decades to a century, and PVC and ABS pipes more than a century. Even the oldest of the units within our complex have not reached 19 years.
“To avoid or delay many future costs that affect sewer operation, maintenance, repair and replacement,” say the experts, “specifications call for pipes to be inherently corrosion resistant to the burial and sewer environment, leak-free, and hydraulically superior.” I think we can all be confidant that city engineers were in full compliance with these standards when the pipes were installed.
I can only recognize the surcharge as being reprehensible and poorly thought out, not only in itself, but also because it will affect so many others who, like my wife and I, are retired and on fixed incomes, yet being saddled with the responsibility of paying the bill for future generations.