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Council rolls back discounts for seniors, disabled

 


At the beginning of a new era in Coulee Dam, the city council Wednesday night rolled back one of the last pieces of legislation passed under the previous council in December.

Councilmember Keith St. Jeor had voted against a measure at a special meeting Dec. 20 to give a steeper discount to income-eligible people on rates for utilities.

At the Jan. 10 meeting, after three new council members took their oaths of office, St. Jeor moved to repeal the earlier rate-setting ordinance, which boosted discounts to 30-35 percent for qualifying low-income senior citizens and disabled residents who qualify for the discount.

St. Jeor argued that the discount constituted an illegal gift of public funds because it put the rate for those getting the discount lower than the actual cost of providing the service, which is illegal.

In fact, St. Jeor said, he’d researched the matter and found the town had been giving such discounts improperly already. He said the town could legally set up a grant fund by seeking donations, but cannot make 80 percent of the people pay more so that 20 percent pay less.

St. Jeor said he wanted eventually to completely revamp the discount ordinance so the town was accomplishing the goal properly.

“On our garbage, on our water, on our sewer, giving these discounts, if it doesn’t pencil out on paper, we’re breaking the law,” St. Jeor said. And determination of eligibility should not be made by the town, but by outside agency standards, such as Medicaid or the state Department of Social and Health Services, he said.

His motion, however, was to simply repeal Ordinance 755, which was passed in December and had increased those discounts. Last week's vote put them back at 25 and 30 percent. The motion was seconded by newly seated Councilmember Bob Poch and passed unanimously.

This article has been corrected to reflect that the discount is a percentage, not a fixed dollar figure, and that it applies to all utilities, not just sewer rates.

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