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home : news : news May 25, 2016

12/20/2012 9:08:00 AM
Council carves water base rate but hikes sewer

It was a mixed bag last week when, in special session, Lindstrom Council voted to increase sewer rates for 2013, but council also was able to decrease the base fee paid by city water customers. Council met late last week to review the budget and levy being presented to citizens tonight (Dec. 20) and also accepted a rate study done by Abdo Eick & Meyers LLP; followed by a 4-0 vote to hike the sewer rates and slice a chunk off water bills. (Roger Lindgren was absent.) According to Matt Voss, of Abdo Eick & Meyers, the study served to spotlight what council has known for a while, that sewer rates were not covering all expenses. Voss warned, “The city can’t eat it....there’s not a lot of room (in the budget) anymore.” Lindstrom expects to address a seven to eight percent increase from the Chisago Lakes Joint Sewage Treatment Commission for 2013, in what the city pays the commission to treat wastewater. This is one estimate, along with other factors, that the rate study utilizes going out to about the year 2022. Voss said the WATER account is in good shape though. “With a significant amount of debt obligations scheduled to mature in 2013, less revenue from base charges will be needed,” Voss explained. He recommended and council agreed, to adopt a 60 percent cut from $25 for the base water customer, to $10 (base for up to the first 20,000 gallons.) There is also a $2 per quarter “user charge” added to the base, again up to 20,000 gallons per quarterly bill. After 20,000 gallons per quarter the user fee is $2.25. The study also showed that a third tier of water user-fees is needed. To encourage conservation the city will also impose extra charges after 30,000 gallons per quarter. This drop in water charges will be countered by the sewer increases, though. The rate study shows revenues needed to increase 30 percent for 2013; 10 percent more in 2014 and 2015, and an estimated six percent for 2016. The study estimates the joint sewer treatment commission will increase rates five percent every year after that, but this is an estimate. Joe Wishy, council liaison to the sewer commission, said the plant and the sewer network are subject to always-changing state standards. “We get the phosphorus where it’s supposed to be,” he said of the effluent, and “then they sock us with ammonia limits.” Sewer bills carrying a base charge of $28 will go to $32 as of January. Voss told the council the rate study did not take into consideration future hook-up fees for sewer and water, known as WAC and SAC. The study is “conservative” in projecting out these new rates. Any unforeseen emergency breakdowns or system repair or replacement projects might necessitate bonding-- but with action taken last week Lindstrom looks to be in very good shape on municipal services accounts, council was advised.

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