Victor council denies sewer bill reimbursement
By NICK NARIGON
The Victor City Council voted 3-1 Oct. 8 to decline a property owner’s request to be reimbursed for 15 years of sewer bills.
Victor Mayor Roger Pawlak told Scott Morrow, co-owner of C and S Enterprise, that he was taking the Victor sewer ordinance out of context and the city has charged sewer fees consistently to all owners of rental units.
“I feel we have acted in accordance with the ordinance and in accordance with precedence. I don’t think we owe you anything,” Pawlak said.
Morrow told the council Sept. 10 the city has been charging him too much for sewer rental on four apartment buildings and requested a reimbursement of $24,150 plus costs.
C and S Enterprises owns the County Line Apartments, Northview Apartments and Horizon Apartments (which includes two buildings).
The city has charged Morrow a sewer fee for each apartment unit. Morrow said it is his belief C and S Enterprises should be charged one sewer fee per building since the business contracts for the sewer service, not the apartment tenants.
The council delayed making a decision on the matter until the Oct. 8 council meeting so Mayor Pawlak could be present.
Up until Sept. 10, the Victor ordinance read that a sewer rental fee will be paid by each person who contracts with the city. Paragraph four of the ordinance stated the sewer rental rate for “residences and businesses” is $25 per month.
Morrow’s contention is that C and S Enterprises contracts for the sewer service, and since C and S Enterprises is a business, it should be charged one sewer fee per building.
“Who is responsible for paying the bill? It’s C and S Enterprises. Not the tenants, not Scott and Carol Morrow. So therefore, it is a business,” Morrow said.
He said C and S Enterprises should be charged the same way the city charges Victor Manufacturing, the HLV School District or the Victor Legion Hall.
“They are not a condo, they are not a townhouse. It is one entity that has contracted the sewer and is responsible for paying. If I don’t pay, you can’t go back on the people living there to get the payment. They have no responsibility or liability with the city. C and S Enterprises is the only one that has a liability and responsibility to the city,” Morrow said.
During the Oct. 8 meeting, Pawlak said it was his belief that Morrow was taking the Victor sewer ordinance out of context.
Pawlak said the first paragraph of the ordinance simply establishes the fact that anybody that uses the sewer owes a fee to the city. Pawlak added that an apartment unit is a residence. If there are four units in an apartment building, then there will be four sewer charges, he said.
“Now what you do, owning those buildings and renting out the apartments is a business. But the buildings itself and those apartments in there are not businesses, they are residences. If you want to say it is a business then you have to say that each one of those is a business,” Pawlak said. “You are twisting the words around.”
Also, Pawlak noted there is a separate electric utility bill for each apartment.
“Alliant Energy thinks that each apartment is a residence because they bill the residence rates. There is a separate bill for each one, so that is a residence,” Pawlak said. “That’s how it has been interpreted for over half a century.”
Every apartment building owner in Victor is charged the same way, Pawlak said.
Clara Jack, who was in attendance at the oct. 8 meeting, said she has rented out apartments in Victor for some time and as the owners, they have had to pay the water, sewer and garbage bills for each apartment unit.
“It amounted to quite a bit. We had to pay it,” Jack said. “The way we handled it, just we increased the rent and I paid the bill. It has worked fine. We have had no problem.”
Victor City Council member Marla Faga said she considers each apartment unit to be a residence. Since each residence is using the sewer, she said she feels they should be charged for sewer.
Faga along with Victor City Council members Dan Cavin and Joann Robinson voted in favor of denying Morrow’s reimbursement request.
City council member Lynn DeNeve voted against denying his request.
“I guess that, I don’t think it is as black and white, cut and dry as one side or the other. I can see the argument on both sides,” DeNeve said. “I’m not sure if we did anything wrong. I think it’s just a badly written ordinance. I hope we don’t have any others written that bad — that doesn’t spell out exactly what we are supposed to be charging.”
Victor City Council member Nick Simmons was absent from the meeting.
WILLIAMS STREET ALLEY
Two months ago Victor City Council voted to install speed bumps in the Williams Street alley.
Victor City Clerk Fred Stiefel said the problems reported by the neighbors have been corrected. Stiefel said the city received letters from the neighbors, that for the time being, they do not want the speed bumps.
The council voted unanimously to not install speed bumps in the Williams Street alley.
UPDATED October 14, 2009 11:40 AM