Public Works Board approves new rates
New London may add fourth operator at sewer plant
By Robert Cloud
The Public Works Board reviewed several new rate structures for the city’s sewer services when it met Tuesday, Sept. 6.
The board approved new rates that would cover the expenses of a fourth employee at the wastewater treatment plant. Their recommendation will need to be adopted as an ordinance by the city council.
Alan Brey, an auditor with Johnson Block, presented a study of New London’s sewer rates to the Public Works Board.
He noted that New London increased its fixed rate from $5 to $6 in January 2022 and most recently raised its variable charges in November 2017.
Currently, New London charges a variable rate of $9.36 per 1,000 gallons of water.
The city’s new variable rate will be $9.74 per 1,000 gallons, if approved by council.
The new fixed rate will be $8.03 for a 3/4-inch meter, which is standard for most residential customers.
In determining sewer rates, Brey said the board needed to consider that revenues cover operations and maintenance expenses plus interest; provide an adequate rate of return to provide for future plant additions and debt coverage; provide sufficient cash flow; and meet all debt obligations.
He said the rates should also consider “last, but certainly not least, the effect on your current utility customers.”
Ben Greuel, chief operator at the wastewater treatment plant, prepared residential, commercial and industrial rate structures based on either three or four employees at the plant.
With a fixed rate of $8.03, a variable rate of $9.74, a 3/4-inch meter and 3,000 gallons water per month, a typical residential sewer bill would be $37.35 per month.
If the treatment plant had only three employees, the same resident’s monthly bill would be $36.30.
“Four employees at the plant is ideal for our situation as if someone is sick or on vacation, or if someone leave for a new job and we have an open position for a period of time,” City Administrator Chad Hoerth told the New London Press Star. “Two employees at the plant is difficult to maintain, especially with the weekend schedule. We need to have someone report to the plant and be on call seven days a week.”
New London dropped the number of plant employees to three in 2017. Since then, maintaining three employees has been difficult at times.
“In today’s employee market, it’s not uncommon that a new employee will need to be trained and allowed time to take and obtain their required DNR certifications for plant operations,” Hoerth said. “So even if a new employee is hired quickly, it’s not uncommon that they will need months to gain their certifications.”
Hoerth also noted that having a fourth employee gives public works more opportunity to clean and maintain the sewer system.
In the analysis that Greuel presented, he compared the proposed new rates with sewer rates in other nearby communities.
According to Greuel’s figures, Waupaca residential sewer services have a fixed rate of $24.21 and a variable rate of $3.69, while Clintonville has a fixed rate of $7.25 and a variable rate of $17.
To keep the variable rate low, the board recommended a 0% rate of return.
When the variable rate was last raised in 2017, the rate of return was 3.5%.