City looks to adopt more specific rate structures
The Wyoming City Council on May 21 unanimously passed a resolution ordering a study of the city’s water and sewer rates and fees for 2014-2018.
Water and sewer rates are set up to generate revenue from user fees to cover the cost of operating utility systems, their maintenance and repair, and to accumulate funds for expansion and capital improvements.
Administrator Craig Mattson said the funds have not seen significant increases in reserves in the 2010-2013 period, and a new strategy may be in order.
City water rates for 2013 are $36.02 a quarter for up to 15,000 gallons and $2.32 for each 1,000 above 15,000. The 2013 sewer rates have a fixed quarterly charge of $92.98 for up to 15,000 gallons, with $4.69 for each 1,000 gallons above 15,000.
Mattson said the goal is to try to get to a point where residents “pay for what they use,” with larger users incrementally paying larger unit prices for water. This means rewarding consumers for conservation.
Nationwide there is a trend of decreased water usage. Contributing factors are smaller families and more efficient plumbing fixtures. This means revenue collected is also lower.
Mattson referred to the city’s water and sewer comprehensive plan for planned future development, which has seen changes. Engineer Mark Erichson told the council the projections were a little different than forecast. The northwest quadrant of the city was not developed. A water tower planned for 2012 was not built because some anticipated development did not occur.
Naeem Qureshi of Progressive Consulting Engineers Inc. summarized services and approaches to water use. Qureshi, the company’s president, has more than 45 years experience with municipal water systems.
He observed that cities are looking at ways to reward water conservation. Some cities offer rebates. Others discount the cost of rain barrels for outside watering. Considering the cost of new infrastructure, postponing projects even a year as a result of conservation nets a cost savings.
Qureshi explained that the study the council approved would look at future city needs and include cash-flow analysis. One part of the study is to determine what it costs to operate each utility.
Proposed rates will be projected over a five-year period to ensure that the fund balance targets are reached.
The city does not meter sewage. Most sewer charges are based on winter-quarter water consumption. This is also an aspect of the study.
If begun right away, Qureshi believes the study could be completed by mid-August. The study costs $19,840 and will be paid through enterprise funds.
Chisago Lakes Joint Sewer Commission has future required projects on its agenda for 2013 and 2014, including state mandates. Councilman Joe Zerwas, liaison to the Joint Sewer Commission, detailed the projects, their respective costs, plans for bonding to finance the work and Wyoming’s anticipated share of the cost.
Project costs total $1.32 million, with additional project fees of $15,000. Bonds will be sold in the amount of $1.3 million. Interest is 2.5 percent for a term of 15 years, with an annual repayment of $112,000.
Center City, Chisago City, Lindstrom, the South Center-South Lindstrom Sanitary District, Chisago County holding tanks, Stacy and Wyoming are all members of the Joint Sewer Commission. Their share of costs is based on joint powers agreement. Wyoming’s share is 23.12 percent of the annual payment, or $25,894.
The Highway 8 improvements through Lindstrom are scheduled to be completed by mid-June, according to Councilman Steve Zerwas. Landscaping in the area will continue through the summer. Cable barriers will be installed in the median on I-35 from its intersection with US-8 north to Harris beginning July 15. The work is scheduled for completion by Oct. 30.
Council accepted the resignation of firefighter Mike Jensen, effective June 1. The department has created an eligibility list of five potential members. Two other candidates are completing certifications and will be qualified by June 15. Dan Dahlager has requested resignation from his position as deputy chief, but will remain as a member of the department. The selection process has begun to promote from within the department.
Council members adopted a resolution which approved an off-sale liquor license for Jokama Inc. for 2013. The company operates in the city as Wyoming Shell. Remodeling of the station will separate the entrances. Area for liquor sales and storage will be separate from the rest of the business. The vote was 5-0.
Council members unanimously approved an application made by the Lakes Area Youth Service Bureau to conduct off-site gambling at Stars and Strikes. Date of the event is July 18.
Councilman Roger Elmore announced the groundbreaking ceremony for the skateboard park was Thursday, May 23, at Goodview Park. At the May 7 council meeting, Elmore reported that, for 2013, the Parks Commission has suspended the plan to collect fees for softball and T-ball teams using the city’s fields.
During the open forum, one resident asked Councilwoman Linda Yeager to reconsider her position on the street reconstruction program in order to eliminate the need for a referendum, save the cost of the special election and allow the city to move ahead on street repairs. Yeager still wants the rest of the council to negotiate alternatives.