The city made a big mistake when it took Jan Ward’s private utility company, known as Juniper Utility, for its own use in 2002. The city told Juniper’s customers and the press it would take Juniper’s property in court without having to pay compensation. The court disagreed, and the city wound up paying more than $12 million for legal fees and compensation. Oops.
The city is trying to pay for its mistake by charging higher water rates to former Juniper customers than it charges all its other customers. The city claims it can charge such discriminatory rates based on a secret deal it struck with some homeowner associations back in 2003. That secret agreement was not signed by me or any individual city customers, yet it supposedly requires us to pay higher rates than customers elsewhere.
For example, when the city decided to replace a water line in my neighborhood, my neighbors and I were singled out to pay the entire cost, which will amount to an additional $26.06 for each of us to pay every month for the next 30 years. Yet, when the city decides to replace a water line in any other neighborhood in town, that cost is shared by customers on a citywide basis.
In sum, the city made a big mistake when it thought it could take Juniper Utility for free. It is now making another big mistake by discriminating against Juniper’s former customers. Two wrongs don’t make a right.