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W’bago water rates rising

By Staff | Feb 17, 2013

Winnebago’s water and wastewater rates are about to be raised but not without some discussion.

The Winnebago City Council took time to discuss the current rates at the council meeting held on Tuesday, Feb. 12.

The issue has been on the council’s radar for several months, but the Utility Committee has finally recommended that they take action to adjust the rates.

The Minnesota Public Facilities Authority monitors rates and makes suggestions when rates should increase.

“The water rate was deficient a couple years ago,”?City Administrator Chris Ziegler says.

To adjust the water fund so it’s in line with the MPFA’s requirements, the rates would have to increase by 1.3 percent.

However, the adjustment of the wastewater rates won’t be as simple.

“That will be more significant,”?Ziegler adds.

The wastewater treatment plant reconstruction and main street sewer projects have both come to an end, which means the city will have to begin repaying the debt service for both.

“The committee acknowledges a rate increase has an adverse effect on users and customers,”?Ziegler says.

But, the standing of the funds are their main concern at this point.

The budget for the year along with the debt service needs were taken into consideration when the recommendation to increase rates were made.

The sewer base fee would increase by $5.70, which would bring the rate from $6.50 to $12.20.

The per thousand rate for usage would increase by $1.

At the Tuesday night meeting, the Utility Committee asked for council approval to increase the rates.

However, Ziegler thought it might be better to give the public some time to learn of the increase before a definite decision is made.

“This will give time for people to digest this information and ask questions before we vote,”?he says.

The council agreed and decided that a public hearing be held at the next regular council meeting on Tuesday, March 12.

This public hearing will give the council a chance to gather information on the increase and allow the public to give input and ask any questions.

The completion of the Wastewater Treatment Plant also resulted in a negotiation between the city and Wapasha Construction.

The company had been unable to complete the project before the contract deadline which resulted in liquidation damages.

Wapasha requested that an agreement be made to avoid these fees.

The Utility Committee met and came up with five items in an agreement, including some extra construction that could be done instead of paying the $15,500 liquidation damage fees.

“It sounds as though they would fight to avoid paying these fees,”?Ziegler adds.

Some of the items listed in the agreement include replacing electrical disconnects for the three aeration blowers with new disconnects, remove piping entirely and replace it in a more organized fashion and patch concrete and seal cracks.

Council member Jean Anderson wondered if these items were worth the $15,500 fees.

“I?took a tour down there,” Mayor Jeremiah Schutt adds. “It’s going to take a lot of work.”

The council made a motion to accept these conditions and waive the fees, if the terms of the agreement are met.