Racquel Thiessen said it best. If a resolution cannot be reached bewtwen Newton and North Newton over an old sewer bill "two communities are walking away with black eyes," Thiesen said. "It just behooves all of us to come together with some conclusion."
Both the Newton City Commission and the North Newton City Council have talked about these fees for quite some time. According to the city of Newton, North Newton owes Newton $407,125.68, plus interest, in sewer fees. North Newton is saying it owes $213,368.64.
Someplace in the middle is where the two need to meet ― and they need to meet there soon. This is dragging on, and leading to bitterness in both communities.
In 2008, the city of Newton started phasing in rate increases to keep up with increasing costs plus prepare for costly upgrades to wastewater treatment. In 2009, the city's finance department failed to do a rate re-computation and left the North Newton rates at 2008 levels, causing two steps in the Newton rate increases to hit North Newton rates at once.
In other words, Newton messed up the bill. North Newton paid what they were billed for in 2008 and 2009. In 2010, Newton raised the rates dramatically, reflecting the previous error.
And then last week, North Newton brought something new to the discussion ― nine projects which included sewer system upgrades and drainage projects which the North Newton mayor said their community should not be sharing, because they did not, in the council's view, directly benefit North Newton.
We get that. We also get frustration with water and sewer rates in Newton. We pay those increases as well.
The two communities have a long history when it comes to sewer issues ― North Newton was incorporated, in part, to get a grant for a sanitary sewer system when Newton was unable to extend those services to those living in that area.
We're back to dickering over sewer, it would seem.
In the last session between the two governing bodies, members of both suggested a final price needs to be negotiated. And they would be right. And both are representing the interests of their own residents ― as they should.
We would implore both bodies to be open and reasonable as they do. North Newton shouldn't try to low ball Newton, but Newton needs to be prepared to negotiate in good faith.
North Newton officials said the best thing would be for them to come up with a settlement figure during their next city council meeting scheduled in April. Then the mayors of the two towns could discuss that figure and it could be brought before another joint meeting for a resolution.
We await the figures.
— Kansan Editorial Board