Falmouth residents shocked by utility bills

Residents throughout Falmouth opened their utility bills at the beginning of August and were dumbfounded with the increase in electric, water and sewage in their July 2018 bill after Falmouth City Council had voted in meetings on Thursday, July 19 and Thursday, July 26.

“My first thought, this must be wrong. Let me go check the meter again,” said Dana Spencer Heiert who is a Falmouth resident.

Her bill had mistakenly included her neighbor’s bill from across the street. “I walked it over to her and she said, ‘Wow that’s high!’ I asked her if she wanted to trade.”

Facing a dilemma of the proverbial rock and a hard place, the mayor and Falmouth City Council felt the need to address the lack of action of the previous mayors and councils and raise water and sewage rates that had not been risen in over a decade.

“Unfortunately, we had to do what hadn’t been done since 2008,” explained Councilperson Philis Wait. “We need to replace our cities water and sewer lines.”

Mayor Ron Stinson, who seeks to retain his position as mayor in November, pointed out that for most people they just turn on the faucet and the water comes out. But that same water is drawn from the Licking River and it does not look like that.

“There has been no increase since 2006 but the treatments and chemicals needed to clean the water have increased,” said Stinson.

He likened the water and sewage system in Falmouth to a rundown home. “You can repair something and it’s fine for a period or you can replace it. But you have to have the funds in either case. We have to maintain equipment. There is a lot involved.”

Councilperson and mayoral candidate Sebastian Ernst took to Facebook when the bills came out and faced a barrage of questions and emotional comments.

His original post stated the increases “reflect the increase in operating expenses in our departments and to make us (city of Falmouth) eligible for state and federal infrastructure grants.”

He continued by echoing that needed “rate adjustments have been put off for years out of fear of public opinion...Our infrastructure is failing as a result.”

While the city is facing issues, Jim Thaxton sees that same issue with residents. “Most folks on fixed income need electric, water and sewage so they will likely cut back usage as possible. They will have less discretionary income and will have to cut back there as well.”

Small World Development Center owner, Danielle Hughes, indicated that the $150 increase in her bill will mean less supplies, less educational materials and less resources for the children who come into her business.

“We cannot cut back on utility use with the children washing their hands, the laundry, cleaning dishes, etc.,” she said.

The outrage has continued over the weekend with much of it being played out, sometimes in very negative fashion, on social media.

The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, August 14.

The Falmouth Outlook will be videotaping the message and posting the video for viewing at www.falmouthoutlook.com.