City sewer rates on the rise

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Cassville City Council voted to increase sewer rates at its regularly scheduled meeting Monday night following a public hearing.

The proposed sewer rate increase will increase the minimum rate per user by 4 percent from $7.80 to $8.09. The largest increase will come in the rate charged for water used.

Currently, city residents are charged $2.22 for every 1,000 gallons of water used. Under the new rate structure, the per-thousand-gallon rate would rise to $2.92, a 31 percent increase.

The rate change was proposed following completion of a sewer rate study conducted for the City of Cassville by Karen Moll, of Sprenkle & Associates, Inc., in Monett.

According to that study, the new rates were set to provide sufficient revenue to meet the expenses of the distribution and treatment system in 2008.

"We've had significant growth since 2000," said City Administrator Mike Hayslip. "We've had a 43 percent increase in population from 2000 to now and a 13 percent increase in billing for water and sewer."

Hayslip said revenues generated from sewer user fees have not been able to maintain the system, and water user fees have been used to supplement the city's sewer costs. According to Hayslip, higher sewer rates could also help the city qualify for grants that could be used to enhance Cassville's infrastructure.

"Grants are a secondary benefit," said Hayslip. "The main emphasis of this increase is so we can maintain our sewer system and our revenues meet our expenses. I look at it as preparing for the future, preparing for growth."

The sewer rate study indicated that there were 1,368 paid sewer users in the city who used approximately 125,000,000 gallons of water a year. The sewer system costs the city approximately $813,000 a year to operate and maintain. Current sewer rates generate about $500,000 a year.

Based on figures compiled by city officials, sewer rates on average would increase by around 20 percent for smaller users and up to 30 percent for heavier users.

"We wanted the rate increase to affect the least amount of people," said Hayslip. "Your small water user is usually a person who is retired or on a fixed income. This person might not have the resources to pay for much of an increase."

Alderman Joe Cavness expressed a public perception that possibly the city could have used the money it spent on the new police department project to offset sewer costs. Hayslip explained that money to finance the police department came out of the city's general revenue fund, which is separate from the city's water and sewer fund.

"We can't use water and sewer money to build a police department and vice versa," said Hayslip.

The public hearing on new sewer rates attracted no participation from the public. The ordinance to approve the new sewer rates passed unanimously with Cavness, Pete Landstad and Sue Brattin voting in favor of the measure. Alderman Herb Primrose was not in attendance at the meeting.

The new sewer rates will not take affect until February of 2008. The last time the City of Cassville raised its sewer rates was in November of 2004.

In other business, the council listened to a presentation by Cassville R-IV School Superintendent Jim Orrell concerning the school's renovation of public facilities at Rocky Edmondson Park. Orrell asked the council if it would consider granting a variance so the district could construct vault-style restrooms at the park instead of traditional restroom facilities. Orrell explained that the proposed toilets would be similar to ones used in state parks. City codes require public institutions to connect their restrooms to a public sewer system. Orrell said the vault restrooms would not require running water and would alleviate the threat of vandalism and decrease the district's maintenance costs.

The council was supportive of Orrell's plans but directed him to present the request to the city's Variance Board.

"This is something the community uses and this is something the school provides as a service to the community," said Mayor Tracy Holle.

The Rocky Edmondson Park renovation project is being funded through a 75 percent federal grant that will require the district to match 25 percent of the project cost. By constructing vault restrooms, Orrell said the district could save anywhere from $6,000 to $16,000, which would allow for the construction of a second pavilion at the park.

Grant funding will also be used to: replace the roof on the existing park pavilion; construct two permanent steel girder pedestrian bridges along the Greenway Trail that winds through the park; construct a restroom facility; purchase additional picnic tables; remove trees and stumps; and plant new trees.

Orrell said the district has 12 months to complete the project. Rocky Edmondson Park was donated to the district in the 1970s and is utilized as an outdoor classroom.

Under new business, the council:

• Approved the 2008 budget as prepared by Darelyn Cooper, city finance officer. The city's spending plan for the coming year totals $3,640,000. Revenues in 2008 are projected at $3,640,000, which results in a balanced budget. "We appreciate Darelyn's effort in preparing this budget and explaining it to us," Mayor Holle said. A more detailed article on the city's 2008 budget will appear in a future issue of the Cassville Democrat.

• Discussed progress on the police department project. Hayslip reported that moving day would be Wednesday, Dec. 19. Total cost for the police department project totalled $491,528. "I'm very pleased with how the police department is looking and what it is going to mean to have it here at City Hall," said Mayor Holle. "I'd like to entertain the idea of having an open house once it's all completed. I'd like for the community to see and understand how we spent their money on this very worthwhile project."

• Approved the 2007 year-end budget adjustment. In total, the year-end budget adjustment increases estimated revenue by $15,387 and increases projected expenditures by $349,777. The shortfall will be funded from the appropriate unrestricted fund balances.

• Awarded the annual City Hall/Police Department cleaning contract to Elkins and Co., who was the low bidder at $550 a month.

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