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Medford revamps utility bills

During our holiday dinner table conversations, our family had a spirited debate about the "new" city of Medford utility bill. In the past, there was only one bill for all our utilities, including water, sewer, etc. Now there are two bills — one that includes a breakdown on parks, public safety and streets and the other for just water. Can you please clarify the change? Most importantly, are there some added fees that were not included before?

— Kristi H., Medford

Kristi, Medford's Public Works Department figured out a "fairer" formula for finding out just how much you owe.

In 2010, the City Council asked the department to brainstorm a new "utility bill methodology."

"We hired a consultant and studied the street utility fee and the sewer and storm drain fees, and we came up with a fairer way to do it," said Cory Crebbin, Medford's public works director.

The Medford Water Commission wasn't willing to implement the new methods, so the city decided to manage its own fees and ended its contract with the agency. Now the Medford Water Commission bills only for water charges.

The city's criteria for street fees changed, so businesses generating large amounts of traffic, such as coffee kiosks and gas stations, are being charged more than businesses with less traffic, despite the size of the business.

The city also revised its standard for calculating storm-drain fees — a formula too complicated for this column — and decided to charge single-family households a flat rate for sewer fees.

"We were spending a lot of money trying to figure out how much water every house used, and the difference was only a few cents," Crebbin said.

Kristi, although your bill may have changed by as much as $3, no new fees have been added.

"The city is still making the same amount of money," Crebbin said. "We are just collecting more from some and less from others."

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.