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Sewer rates may be raised

Clintonville Utility Board recommends increase

By Bert Lehman

Residents of the city of Clintonville could see a 20 percent increase in their sewer rates this year.

The Utility Board for the city of Clintonville recommended the increase at a meeting on Feb. 24. The meeting was held after a public hearing on the topic. The vote was unanimous, with board members Jeannie Schley and Ella Lewis not present.

The proposed rate increase now moves to the city council for approval.

During the public hearing, City administrator Chuck Kell shared with those in attendance information from a survey conducted in 2013 comparing Clintonville’s sewer rates with other communities. When that survey was conducted the total annual cost of sewer service in the city of Clintonville was $316 per year. Of the communities included in the survey, only three had a lower annual cost than Clintonville.

“You can see that Clintonville historically has been pretty low in terms of their sewer rate costs,” Kell said.

Clintonville’s current sewer rates equate to $360 per year, which ranks it in the middle when compared to other communities in the 2013 survey. Kell said the average cost for that service in similar sized communities is $403 per year.

“It’s good that the city has had low sewer rates. That’s always preferable to the public and the citizens,” Kell said. “The problem comes in that that rate structure doesn’t support infrastructure improvements.”

Kell said the city needs more money in order to make improvements to the wastewater treatment plant and sewer projects associated with the second phase of the Main Street reconstruction scheduled for 2017.

Rate increase proposal
The proposed increase in the sewer rates would include an increase from $4.15 per 1,000 gallons of water used to $5.55 per 1,000 gallons. The monthly fixed rate would also increase from $11 per month to $14.60 per month for residential homes.

“These represent a 25 percent increase overall in the bill,” Kell said.

Commercial water users would also see an increase.

“Basically all the customers are going to be looking at an increase between 22 and 25 percent,” Kell said.

To show how the increase would impact residential customers, Kell provide an example of a residential customer using 2,000 gallons of water per month. The increase would be $6.30 per month, or $75.60 per year.

A residential customer using 4,000 gallons of water per month, which Kell said was more representative of a family of four, would see an increase of $9.20 per month, or $110.40 per year.
Kell also provided examples of the impact the increase would have on commercial customers.

The monthly increase for a commercial customer using 55,000 gallons of water per month would be $81.50 per month, for an increase of $978 for the year.

The increase per month would be $139 for a commercial customer using 90,000 gallons of water per month. That equates to an increase of $1,668 per year.

Improving infrastructure
“The city has in its five year capital improvement plan a number of projects that is driving this rate increase,” Kell said.

The largest project is the upgrade to the wastewater treatment facility, he said.

That project is projected to cost just under $10 million. That project will be financed with a 40 year bond issue secured through the federal government. The amount financed is $7.45 million. The city will also receive a $2.4 million grant for the project. The grant does not have to be repaid.

Kell said all the city’s utilities on the north end of Main Street will be replaced during the second phase of Main Street reconstruction scheduled for 2017.

The cost of the sanitary portion of the just under one mile project is estimated to be $555,000.

“These two projects between these two years is $10.5 million,” Kell said.

Rebuilding 1,600 feet of sewer mains and replacing seven manholes on Robert Street is scheduled in 2020 at an estimated cost of $147,392.

Replacing the sanitary sewer on West 12th Street in 2017 is estimated to cost $50,000.

Replacing the sanitary sewer, manholes and laterals on Maize Street, scheduled for this year, is estimated to cost $120,000.
Over the next two years, the city also plans to improve its SCADA System at an estimated cost of $80,000. Kell said the SCADA System is the computer network between the lift stations and the sewer and water office, so the condition of the lift stations can be monitored.

Financial plan
In order to fund all the projects the city has scheduled over the next five year, its financial advisor has informed the city it has to increase revenues by $183,000 per year, Kell said.

Kell added that even though the payback period for the improvements to the wastewater treatment facility is 40 years, he recommended the city pay it off sooner.

“That’s way too long, quite frankly, to have debt out there on that because you’ll be rebuilding that plant again before 40 years is up,” Kell said.

In an effort to repay that faster, Kell said around an extra $54,000 per year is included in the rate increase. This will allow the city to pay debt down at a faster rate.

“Hopefully that plant can be paid off in 25 years or so,” Kell said.

Kell also said the Utility Board will have to consider how to adjust the rates moving forward.

“This is the first year of possibly multiple years of increases,” Kell said.

During discussion council member Julie Stumbris asked when the last rate increase occurred in the city.

Kell said a small increase was introduced in 2014 to fund a $3 million project.

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