Need for adequate fund reserves, new water tower prompt rise
The Wyoming City Council on Dec. 17 unanimously adopted water and sewer rates for the next five years. The rates include an immediate increase and subsequent ones for each year through 2018.
Water and sewer funds pay for utility operations, system maintenance and expansion. Rates have not been sufficient to maintain an adequate reserve, City Administrator Craig Mattson said, noting a 30-home development is planned to begin in the summer. Engineer Mark Erichson said the city has delayed as long as it can to build a new water tower. In addition, the city has to cover its share of increases to the Chisago Lakes Joint Sewer Commission.
A utility rate study conducted earlier this year by Progressive Consulting Engineers provided a starting point. Also, there has been a change in the way the rates are set. Users will be charged per 100 gallons used, rather than being billed starting at a minimum based on 15,000 gallons a quarter.
Mattson estimates his bill for an estimated 8,000 gallons will remain about the same. The rates will increase, but the incentive for conservation will equal them out.
In 2014, residential customers will be charged a quarterly base fee of $22.48, and 18.6 cents for each 100 gallons up to 20,000 gallons. Usage per 100 gallons above that will cost 23.2 cents per gallon.
In 2018 the base fee will have risen to $32.92. Rates for each 100 gallons under 20,000 will increase about two cents per year, so that in 2018, this amount will be 27.2 cents. Rates above 20,000 have similar increases, to 34 cents per 100 gallons in 2018.
Commercial customers are charged based on meter size, but also will see similar increases in rates. The increase at the beginning is the largest. Smaller increases will follow in each year of the rate schedule. The city will use the funds generated at the front end to finance construction of the water tower.
Sewer rates will increase through 2018 as well. The base fee for 2014 was set at $24.07, with a charge of $1.02 for each 100 gallons of sewage. In the final year of the schedule, residential customers will be charged a base fee of $29.18 and $1.24 per 100 gallons.
The city’s water and sewer availability charges will each increase by $100 per year, with the one for sewer beginning at $4,150 in 2014 and the one for water beginning at $3,590.
Zoning request denied
The council unanimously denied a request to re-zone an area of the city from commercial to industrial. The request came from McGillivray Land Company LLC, which proposed locating an excavation business at Gary Menne’s former property at 5311 264th Street.
The council denied the request because the business would come with gravel and sand piles and heavy equipment storage. It would have been across the street from Berry’s Garage, Nesting Grounds, and other businesses immediately south. The site is also adjacent to the Sunrise Prairie Trail. Councilman Steve Zerwas expressed concern about the appearance of such a site in the city.
The Planning Commission had recommended approving the request, citing the lack of traffic hazards or increased traffic, compatibility with existing developments, and lack of excessive demands on schools, parks and streets.
Mattson said the proposed function was not compatible with the comprehensive plan. Fred Weck, zoning official, wrote that the request was not related to the overall needs of the city.
Firefighter pay change
The council approved a change in Wyoming Fire Department’s on-call payroll structure in order to equate pay with levels of experience and accountability. The pay will continue on an hourly basis.
The change to performance-based pay was recommended and requested by Fire Chief J.J. Hastings. Currently all firefighters are paid $18 an hour for fire calls and training.
New per-hour rates range from $15-$24. Training and meetings are at half-pay per hour.
Public Safety Director Paul Hoppe explained that a crew system is being developed for on-call responses so that enough firefighters respond, but not more than needed. Volunteers can indicate their in-town availability. The goal is to reduce burn-out and allow volunteers to disconnect when they know others will be available. Hoppe hopes the department can develop three or four shifts a month for emergency calls.
Implementation is planned for 2014, with refinements into 2015. Council approval was unanimous.
In other department news, the council approved the appointment of Nicole Miller as a probationary firefighter. The department is authorized for 34 firefighters; 31 are now on the force.
County road project
The council granted consent to Chisago County to complete road reconstruction work within the city limits. In 2014 the county is scheduled to complete road repairs on CR-30, north from its intersection with Viking Boulevard (CR-22).
Engineer Mark Erichson said the work will take about two months. The county wants flexibility in the project’s timing because that might improve the bidding results. The project is to be paid for with county funds and county state-aid funds.