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Winnebago, Corn Plus agree on water rate

By Staff | Aug 16, 2008

Council Member Dana Gates

The Winnebago City Council and Corn Plus, Inc., came to an agreement Tuesday night that will give the ethanol plant a lower increase in their water bill.

That agreement came after a half hour — sometimes heated — discussion between members of the council and Matt Rynearson, the plant facilities manager.

At their last meeting the council decided to raise Corn Plus’ water/sewer rate to match the new residential rate of $2.68 per thousand gallons. The Utility Committee recommendation would have been a $1 per/thousand gallon increase for the company. The planned increase would have been applied in two increments; a 50-cent increase on Oct. 1, and another on July 9, 2009.

The council voted Tuesday to give Corn Plus a 10-percent discount, for a rate of $2.42 per thousand gallons. This new rate goes into effect January 1, 2009.

Councilman Dana Gates says he was trying to make everything fair by having Corn Plus pay the same rate as residents.

“We need to have a level playing field,” Gates says. “Especially if we will be spending four to five million on upgrading our wastewater treatment plant in the future.”

Rynearson responded that Corn Plus wants to be a good neighbor in Winnebago, but they are unable to absorb large increases in the water rate every two years.

“We saw a 34-percent increase just two years ago,” he says, “And now this is a 59 percent increase again.”

The fact that Corn Plus has enjoyed low water rates for many years, and has had large profit margins was pointed out by several council members. “I am not here to debate that,” Rynearson says, “And our margins are off this year due to high corn prices and lower prices for ethanol.”

Council member Maryann McClain agreed that the water rate increase was too much.

“I am just thankful that you (Corn Plus) are here in Winnebago,” she says. “You use our services, and employ a lot of people and I don’t think this much of an increase is fair.”

It was Councilman Paul Loomis who came up with the compromise plan of giving a 10-percent discount to SIUs (Significant Industrial Users).

The new discounted rate was later voted to be implemented with the city’s other SIU account, Continental Carbonic, Inc.

Corn Plus uses approximately 125,000 gallons of water per day, while Continental Carbonic uses 35,000 gallons per day, according to Public Works Director Darold Nienhaus.

Rynearson was asked by McClain if Corn Plus would agree to the new rate, and he responded they would.

“We just don’t want to have to face huge increases every two years,” he adds.