Council to Consider Water and Sewer Rates

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The City Council will consider ordinances to adjust water and sewer utility rates for the years 2013-2016, including a conservation program on residential water use. The item is being considered by Council on Thursday, June 17 since Council previously cancelled their regular June 21 meeting.

The city’s financial policies call for a utility rate study to be performed every five years to ensure that water, sewer and stormwater rates are consistent with legal and financial guidelines, as well as to continue the pursuit of the Council’s financial, operational and construction strategy adopted in 2006. The study assumes no change in the currently-adopted rate structure that runs through 2012. As such, the six-year planning window of the study (2011-2016) evaluated rate adjustments only for the period of 2013-2016.

Water rates are proposed to increase 3% in 2013 and 2014 to 3.75% in 2015 and 2016. A comparison of the proposed rates to other municipalities in the area shows that the rates proposed for 2013 are on par with those currently being charged by many municipalities in 2010. A similar picture can be seen in the proposed rate adjustment for sewer (3% per year), although in this case the rates proposed for 2013 are lower than the rate currently charged by many cities.

The main cost-drivers for water are annually increasing water supply costs coupled with the continuation of replacing and upgrading water mains community-wide, a strategy that was initiated in 2006.
The water utility will also be able to fund the replacement of the current manually-read water meters with an Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) system. With an AMR system, water meters are outfitted with a computer chip and radio transmitter that are capable of sending a reading of the water meter to a vehicle equipped with a receiver while it drives down the street. This would replace the city’s current practice of an employee walking to each water meter and entering data from the meter into a device that is later downloaded to a computer.

AMR offers several advantages over the current system, including better detection of water leaks, a reduction in operating costs, and the ability to provide customers with real-time data on their efforts to conserve water. For the city’s sewer utility, the main cost-drivers are increasing wastewater treatment costs and upgrading and replacing sewer mains.

[image courtesy teresia]

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