By Lynda Jensen
DASSEL, MN -- If all goes according to plan, the Dassel City Council will be increasing its rates for water and sewer to balance out those funds, following feedback of numbers released at its meeting last Monday.
The council did not take official action at that time, pending feedback from the public, but has for the most part settled on figures that will increase rates over a three-year period, in order to cover the new water tower and other improvements made to infrastructure in recent years.
The increases will take effect in January 2010 and will show up on the February bill, not the year 2011 as previously reported.
According to engineer Chuck DeWolf, an average family uses between 4,000 and 5,000 gallons of water, per month in Dassel.
Using this as a sample, a family with a water bill of about $72.75 can expect its utility bill to go up to $83.20 next year, then $93.65 the following year and $104.10 for the third and final year of increases.
The total increase will be 35 percent over the three-year period. Nevertheless, this will bring the utility funds back into balance.
Resident Tony Marelic attended the meeting to remind the council of people who are on fixed incomes, such as himself and his wife, Lena. The previous administrator told him a long time ago that utility rates would not go up for seven to 10 years, he said. “I understand how it goes,” he added.
The increases are in both base rates and the charge per thousand gallons on the utility bill; with higher increases in water than sewer; which reflects the status of those account balances that the city is trying to offset with recent major upgrading projects such as the new water tower, and water main upgrades on Third St. S.
It was noted that shifting dollars from public works to the general fund to help balance out the utility accounts would involve the public works department changing its time sheets, meaning that time spent working on the water treatment plant and so on would not be documented. “That’s not a good option,” Administrator Myles McGrath said.
The council will review the water rates every year, in case something changes that would improve the situation and allow the city to scale back the increases; such as an increase in development that would bring in more revenue in the form of access charges and fees.
Odds and ends
The council also:
• certified $4,139 in special assessments to the tax rolls. It was noted that only four foreclosures related to water bills in arrears were documented.
• heard from Mayor Mike Scanlon that cabinetry for the food shelf was donated by Dura Supreme. The food shelf is still expected to open in mid-December.
• noted that new Council Member Jason Benzing and Bob Lalone will meet on the personnel committee to discuss staff raises.
• noted that Jay Zimmermann planned to open his new business, the bakery in Dassel, by the weekend. See separate article.
• approved a payment of $19,950 for the water tower, which pertained to work done in October; primarily painting and the like of the new tower.
• opted to spend $15,000 on improvements to the empty portion of the liquor store that pertains to a bathroom being added there. The following low bidders were listed for work: $2,890 for carpentry to Rokala Construction, $3,200 for plumbing to Tim Servin Plumbing, $6,500 for HVAC to Action Air, and $825 for electrical work by Thomas Beckman.
The empty space needs to be rented out in order to help balance out the liquor store books. Scanlon said he thought this empty portion would be ideal for a hardware store. So far, it hasn’t been advertised or listed anywhere.