Sewer and water rates back on table at Waverly council

April 14, 2008

By Jennifer Gallus
Staff Writer

Although the Waverly City Council approved a water and sewer rate increase at its February meeting in an attempt to have the sewer fund eventually support itself, more discussion took place about an additional sewer rate increase at Tuesday’s meeting.

Because the water fund has been supporting the sewer fund for some time, the council had adopted a plan two months ago to phase out transfers from the water fund into the sewer fund by increasing the sewer rate by 55 percent above 2007’s rates as well as increase the water rate by 50 percent.

The city does not want to get into a situation where the water fund wouldn’t have adequate funds reserved for its own purposes in the future, like if the city were to need another well.

Communications between the city’s financial advisor Tom Hagen of Ehlers and Associates with Mayor Ken Hausladen yielded the recommendation from Hagen that the city should consider converting to monthly utility billing instead of quarterly to improve cash flow, according to minutes from the March 28 special session meeting.

Hausladen asked city engineer Barry Glienke to calculate a new sewer and water rate that would accomplish no transfers from the water fund and to cover the costs of additional administration costs of monthly billing, according to the minutes.

“Council Member Gary Olson suggested that he objected to Mayor Ken Hausladen conducting individual discussions with city consultants and that the consultants should make presentations to the entire council,” the minutes read. “Council Member Deb Hausladen advised Council Member Olson that much of the communication is done through e-mail with the council being copied on the e-mail messages.”

Glienke brought the requested calculations to Tuesday’s meeting that detailed a sewer rate increase that would satisfy the goal of the sewer fund standing on its own with no more transfers from the water fund beginning this year.

The rate approved two months ago took into account transfers from the water fund into the sewer fund for the next several years before tapering off.

If the council were to act on the new plan, the sewer rate would increase by another 43 percent on top of the 55 percent previously approved, which translates into $19 more dollars per month for the average user (4,500 gallons per month), or a 230 percent increase above the 2007 sewer rate.

Based on the 2007 rates, the average monthly user was paying $30 per month for sewer. The previously approved 55 percent rate increase for the average user yields a monthly bill of $44, but with the additional potential increase, that number would jump to $63 per month for the average user.

The upside is that the water rate would actually drop by $10 per month for the average user because it wouldn’t be transferring money out of its fund.

The council considered the rate increase for some time and decided to table any kind of decision until the next meeting.

Olson asked what the hurry was in paying back the funds to the water fund, and Pam Henry-Neaton commented that 230 percent is a huge increase for one year and she doesn’t want to chase anyone out of town.

Employee benefits to stay

During last month’s council meeting, there was heated discussion regarding a possible change in city employee health benefits.

Negotiations took place in a closed meeting with the end result of the current city employees being able to keep their cash insurance benefit in place, but future employees will not be entitled to the cash benefit. However, future employees will still have the option to participate in the city’s group insurance policy.

Compensation for council members discussed

During the council meeting, discussion moved to the adoption of an ordinance that would change the current compensation salary for council members and the mayor to no compensation for regular or special meetings and no base salary effective Jan. 1, 2009.

Currently council members are paid $50 per regular meeting, and $40 per other special meetings with no base salary this year. The mayor currently receives $60 per regular meeting and $40 per other special meetings.

Minutes from the March 28 special session meeting state, “A proposal was made to change the council salaries to no monthly salary or per meeting compensation effective January 1, 2009 until such time as the general fund reserve is replenished.”

After some discussion at Tuesday’s meeting, the council decided to table a vote on the proposal.

“It bothers me the more I think about it,” Olson said. “Three seats will be open (for next year), and it may become a factor for someone filing for a city position.”

“It won’t affect me because I won’t be here next year. I think it’s kind of ridiculous because I don’t think any other cities do this,” Olson said.

Odds and ends

In other business, the council:

• reminded everyone that clean-up day is scheduled for Saturday, April 26 from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the city offices.

• appointed Keith Harris to the Economic Development Authority.

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