Residents gear up for battle over sewerage fee

Residents of Hod Hasharon are gearing up for a fierce battle against the city's decision to impose a sewerage improvement fee of thousands of shekels on each household in the city, reports A group of residents made up of lawyers, neighborhood committee heads and local activists is urging residents not to pay the fee and is saying that the issue is on the verge of "exploding." According to the report, although detailed plans for creating a sewerage system in the city were drawn up in the 1980s, only some of the work has been done even now. The plans divided the city into 11 areas, and work began in 1990 in three of those areas, comprising some 20 percent of the total project. Residents were charged for this work (20% of the total cost) in 1997. But a storm broke out in 2004 when Mayor Hai Adiv attempted to charge the city's residents for the remaining 80% of the project, even though the work had not been done. The following year the city eased this to charge only those residents who were selling their houses. But the report said that several weeks ago residents around the city were sent notices demanding that they pay thousands of shekels each by the end of August to help pay for the project. Residents' activists questioned the charges and said it was "unbelievable cheek" to demand payment of such large sums, and to insist on this being done by the end of this month. They urged residents not to pay and said they were organizing "the correct ways" to fight the fee. They were backed up by at least one councilor, Amir Kohavi, who said the mayor had "once again chosen to treat residents scornfully" by imposing the fee while the city council was on its summer break and while many municipal employees were away on vacation and unable to answer residents' questions. A municipal spokesman responded that the city had invested NIS 45 million in recent years in the sewerage system, and it was the city's duty to continue developing infrastructure. The spokesman said residents had paid for only 20% of the cost of the sewerage system and the city had to collect the remaining 80%. He said that in order to ease the burden on residents, at this stage the city had decided to collect only 40% of the total cost.