Water rate increases approved
By Kristen Miller
The Dassel City Council is now accepting applications for a council member to serve in the place of council member Jason Benzing, who resigned following last month’s meeting.
The council approved Benzing’s resignation during last Monday’s special meeting, at which time it decided to interview for the position rather than hold a special election.
City clerk/treasurer Terri Boese advised that appointing a member to finish the term would be far less costly than holding a special election.
The council member would serve for two years, after which the position would be up for election in November 2016. This would then be a special election to fill the remaining two years of the term. There will be four seats up for election at that time.
Though the interviews of potential candidates could be open to the public, the council agreed to allow two council members to conduct the interviews and make a recommendation to the board. Council Member Sara Nelson and newly installed Council Member Sherrie Bjork agreed to conduct the interviews.
Applications are being accepted at Dassel City Hall until 1 p.m. Friday, Jan. 23.
A recommendation will then be given to the council at its regular meeting Tuesday, Feb. 17 at 7 p.m. (note date change due to Presidents Day).
Water rate increase
The council approved increasing the water base rate, while maintaining the current sewer rates.
Chuck DeWolfe, city engineer, explained that water usage has gone down from 36 million gallons to 31 million gallons. Averaging the last four years, DeWolfe projected rates for 2015 to be 33 million, and based the proposed increases on that amount.
Less water usage means less revenue for the city.
Boese explained that although people are conserving water, it costs the city the same amount to provide water, regardless of the amount used.
With two additional bond payments for water and sewer from the William Avenue street project two years ago, expenditures have exceeded revenue, Boese explained.
Only the water fund is concerning, however. With the changes made to how sewer is being billed in 2014, the sewer fund is maintaining a positive cash flow.
DeWolfe provided the council projected revenue amounts based on the projected 33 million gallons of usage. He also suggested the council raise the base fee rather than the usage fee, as usage fluctuates. The base is guaranteed revenue, DeWolfe said.
He suggested raising the base fee from $13.42 a month to $15.88 a month, an increase of $2.45 a month.
Projected 2015 expenditures for water are $406,960. With the current rates, the projected revenue would be $385,856, leaving a deficit of $21,104. The proposed rate increase would generate $407,022, a surplus of $62.
Council Member Nelson noted that the change in base rate would amount to an 8-cent increase a day for users.
The council unanimously approved the increase in the base rate, effective for the December 2014 billing.
Public hearing set for proposed winter parking ordinance
After discussion regarding the updating of the current ordinance on snow removal and winter parking, the council set a public hearing during the regular meeting in February.
Council Member Sharon Asplin and Mayor Jeffrey Putnam noted having received several complaints from residents not allowed to park on city streets overnight when there is no snow event.
The current ordinance reads that no motor vehicle shall be parked upon any street, avenue, or alley between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. Nov. 15 through April 1.
It was suggested that the dates be removed and that vehicles be allowed to park on the streets overnight unless there is a snow event, and up to 48 hours after the event to allow for snow removal and clean-up.
Sign ordinance meeting canceled
Putnam suggested the council cancel the special meeting set for Monday, Jan. 12 in which the council and public would discuss aspects of a sign ordinance.
The previous sign ordinance was determined to be null and void due to improper public notification of the public hearing at which it was approved by the council. The former ordinance became effective again after the determination.
Putnam noted he wanted the council to seek public input regarding a potential sign ordinance before holding another meeting on it.
Next council meeting
The next regular council meeting will be Tuesday, Jan. 20 at 6:30 p.m., at which time a public hearing will take place for a variance request by Don MacKay, owner of Westview Terrace Mobile Home Park. Note the date change due to Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.