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City must go after water thieves instead of hiking peoples’ rates

The times we live in are challenging enough. That is why the proposed 12.9 percent hike in water rates in the city is unbearable, culminating after successive annual increases. The average annual bill for a one-family home under this increase is projected to be at $911, up from $779 at the current rate. This is surely a disguised tax increase that will continue to unfairly burden us.

These increases add up and the burden grows heavier on the backs of working families. In fact, the city Department of Environmental Protection increased the salaries of some of its workers by 35 percent, a move that flies in the face of its customers. The city gets $200 million per year from water revenue to add to its general funds and it should be thankful for that.

But instead of counting its blessings, the DEP appears to be penalizing homeowners for conserving water by imposing a surcharge on our payments. The double-digit annual increases are unsustainable and soon homeowners will be unable to pay for the cumulative weight of essential services and supplies.

When will we get a break? Why a 13 percent increase? The DEP must show its customers some consideration rather than jumping on the bandwagon of greed. Soak your customers with some appreciation, not additional charges.

To keep costs under control, the DEP must curb waste, theft and mismanagement wherever it occurs. It should go after water freeloaders. Some rogue plumbers roll water meters backward, thus moonlighting as water thieves. The DEP is to blame in some circumstances because it does not audit the previous months’ bills and demand that the water thief account for negative usage. Negative rollbacks and new constructions should trigger an audit and an investigation of the relevant meters.

The DEP should also check the many development sites in the city that steal water illegally by opening fire hydrants with hoses hooked up to them, surreptitiously leading behind construction fences to buildings. The result is theft for prolonged periods from multiple sites at the same time.

Apart from the fact that it is easy to identify property owners who use water without paying, the DEP owes a duty to its 832,000 customers to go after these culprits and ease the projected 13 percent rate increase by inflicting additional fees and penalties on them.

Albert Baldeo

Ozone Park

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