City holds off on decision

Council chooses to wait to appoint board members to water authority

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— The City Council decided to postpone appointing members to the proposed water authority board at its Tuesday meeting.

After interviewing seven candidates for the position at the meeting, the council said it wanted to wait until next week's meeting before voting on the three postions.

"Some of the people I have known for a long time. Some of the people I have never seen before," Councilman Bud Romberg said. "I would like to have some time to think about it."

Councilman Loui Antonucci said he was willing to make the decision Tuesday night if the council could go into executive session to discuss the candidates.

But President Pro Tem Paul Strong said the city attorney had said an executive session would be inappropriate.

Council President Kathy Connell did not attend the meeting, and Arianthe Stettner had stepped down from the decision because of a conflict of interest. Her husband, Paul Stettner, was among the applicants.

Council members have said they want to appoint board members before voters are asked to approve the water merger between the city and Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District. The city has 10 days after the Nov. 5 election to appoint the board.

Mount Werner Water will select the other four members to make up the seven-member board.

The council ran through a list of questions asking applicants about rate equalization, rate structure, support of consolidation, what they had to offer to the board and thoughts on the proposed water agreement.

The council interviewed Paul Stettner, Nancy Mayer, Stephen Cavanagh, Dan Birch, Marcus Williams, Mark Traum and Bill Martin. Anthony Vaida has withdrawn his name.

All of the candidates said they supported the consolidation of the two water and sewer entities and said rates should eventually be equalized.

Birch, who was the former manager of Mount Werner Water and had worked with the city system for six years, said he sees rates equalizing through a slight increase in Mount Werner Water rates and a decrease in city rates. Right now, he said city rates are 100 percent higher than Mount Werner Water rates.

"What you are looking at is a balancing act," Birch said. "To raise Mount Werner rates, a minimal amount, not an enormous amount, is in order to try to bring the city rates down at some point. I think that is what you will end up seeing to equalize rates."

Martin, a former council president, said he would like to see the rates equalized within the next five years. And Cavanagh said he thinks more important issues are being overlooked with the recent debate over rate equalization.

"It is unfortunate that it is such a distraction," Cavanagh said. "But if we don't have consolidation, rates will continue to spread. And we don't need that. How fast we can get to equalization, I am not in the power to say."

The majority of the applicants also said they agreed with the city's rate structure that has users being charged more for consumption rather than a flat rate that Mount Werner Water uses.

Although the council said it wants to have a board in place before voters go to the polls, Councilman Steve Ivancie warned he did not want the makeup of the board to distract voters.

"The charter is more important," Ivancie said. "We really need to pay attention to it as well."

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