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Written by Ben Jorgensen, The Clearwater Progress   

Winter ramblings

     The dreaded multiple billing practice once more came to the surface at last week’s Kamiah City Council meeting.

     Business owner Dawn Marie Johnson inquired why she had to pay an additional set of base fees just because she rented out a studio above her eatery The Log Yard.

     She brought up a very salient point: It’s hard to make money in this town.


     The city is not focused on making it easier for businesses to make money. There are nice people serving as councilors, mayor, staff, public works and all of them would like to see business do well here. But as Councilor Dan Millward noted, the city wants to pay its bills. That’s its focus and responsibility. And those bills are vast considering the millions of dollars spent for a waste water plant that was not needed and a water plant that was very much needed.

     The city needs to crank out payments from users every month. So it has opted to use the multiple billing practice as a means to gather the necessary monthly payment.

     It’s an ugly and unfair process that virtually everyone dislikes. It’s also court approved.

     Lynn Sanderson took the city to court over the issue years ago when her business was double billed and the judge basically said the city can charge what it wants to pay its bills.

     That doesn’t mean it’s fair. It just means it is what it is, an unfair practice that makes it extremely hard on small business. The policy further appears to favor some businesses over others because of unequal bill assessments.

     The fairest way to deal with the issue is to base charges off consumption and do away with base rates. That way everyone is on an equal footing and each pays for what they consume. If that means that consumption charges are hiked proportionally to make up what is lost in base rates, so be it.

     This approach would also eliminate the unsavory reality of city officials turning in business owners who are renting property that under the current system qualifies for multiple billing. The whole notion of turning in businesses so they can be assessed additional base rates almost feels retaliatory. I know city officials have a job to do, but there has to be a better system than what we have now.

     I will say that no matter what formula is implemented, someone will still say water is too costly here. That statement goes back to Johnson’s assessment that it is hard to make money here. Or live here. Not enough money and too expensive are the economic catch phrases of the reality that we call Kamiah. It’s an economically poor area, but rich in other areas, like neighborliness.

     As the snow arrived and kept coming and coming and coming the tiny public works department could not keep up with its removal. Believe it or not they have a lot of other tasks to do on a regular basis, not to mention assisting with the ongoing water infrastructure project.

     So the streets became snarly with ice. When things don’t go smoothly patience is often the first virtue to go AWOL. It’s followed by kindness and courtesy.

     A group of residents volunteered to help the city, using their own snowplows and trucks to clear some of the streets during the wee hours. It’s that kind of gracious spirit that Kamiah is rich.

     I appreciate Councilor Mike Bovey’s comment at last week’s meeting, “It’s winter. You got to get used to it.”

     We’ve been spoiled the past decade with less arduous winters and forgotten that we live in snow country. We’ve been reminded of it this year. Learn to graciously adapt and be thankful that we even have paved roads in the first place as well as other services that are so easily taken for granted.


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