Owners of condominiums and townhouses in the Kennewick Irrigation District objected to a proposal that would have them paying their summer water bills individually instead of through homeowner associations.
KID officials held a public meeting Monday to get feedback on a proposed policy for assessing small lot properties in the 55,000-acre district.
The district's made up of about 22,201 irrigable acres and about 21,000 customers.
Most of the people at Monday's meeting were of retirement age.
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"The whole purpose of this is that everyone pays their fair share," said Chuck Freeman, district manager, in explaining why KID's Water Rates Advisory Committee wants to revise the rate schedule.
But many of the more than 50 people who attended the two-hour meeting at the Benton PUD Auditorium in Kennewick said trying to have condominium and townhouse residents treated like individual customers was a bad idea.
"I object to being billed individually. This will make everything more complex," said one resident of the 79-unit Pinewood community. She, like many others, did not identify herself at the meeting and refused to provide her name to the Herald.
Another Pinewood resident, Sharyn Harvey, talked about how homeowner associations like hers typically collect monthly fees and pay service providers, such as KID, with one payment.
The summer irrigation bill for all 79 Pinewood homeowners is $1,800, or about $23 each, Harvey said.
KID officials heard several people say that trying to bill people individually would create legal problems because of the contractual agreements that homeowner associations have with their residents.
KID's Scott Revell, district planning manager, said the idea is to hold is property owners accountable, with the threat of foreclosure, if they don't pay their irrigation assessments.
But Harvey, like others, insisted that trying to foreclose on community owned common areas would be legally impossible.
"How can you foreclose on property that is equally owned by 79 residents, when only one of them failed to pay their water bill? You can't," Harvey told the Herald.
Ken Silliman, who lives in the Palisades condominiums off Canal Drive, questioned why KID thinks it is right to charge more for multiple residents living in a project that is on the same size piece of ground as a single-family residence located next door.
"It costs the same to deliver water to my neighbor and my condominium association, so why not the same charge for both?" he asked.
Freeman said KID could not provide specific dollar amounts as proposed charges because the board had to sort out the policy questions first.
"Once the policy is decided, the consultant will run the model. That's why we want to hear your concerns," he said.
With nearly 900 condominiums and townhouses in the KID, Freeman said it is likely some people will see their assessments go up, while others will have reductions.
"We heard a lot tonight and we learned a lot," he said.
Kirk Rathbun, who is a KID director and chairman of the Water Rates Advisory Committee, said the public feedback, while mostly critical, was important to have because it will help the committee in refining the assessment policy.