Council mulls higher water and sewer rates

A rate increase for water, sewer, and storm sewer services was discussed Tuesday by Wellington village council.

The Poggemeyer Design Group was tasked with examining the village’s rates in January to see if they were sufficient in covering costs. According to officials, it was the first time an outside source had looked at the rates in more than 10 years.

The study determined an increase is necessary to offset further deficit spending and to create a necessary 25 to 40 percent surplus in the funds.

Three options were discussed by council during a special work session Aug. 28: charging customers based on usage, setting a fixed monthly rate increase that would be equal among customers regardless of usage, or a combination of the two.

With option two, water rates would increase by $4 per month from 2018 through 2021, which according to Poggemeyer would add $137,916 to that fund each year. Monthly sewer charges would rise by $8 and add an estimated $254,688 annually.

Currently, residents pay $7.75 for every 1,000 gallons of water used and a flat rate of $3.50 per month for storm sewer amenities.

After the work session, the popular choice seemed to be option three, a slightly lower fixed rate increase with additional charges based on usage. On Tuesday, however, consensus had swayed toward option two.

“There’s a cost to running water and sewer facilities,” said mayor Hans Schneider. “There’s upcoming projects that are going to leave us with even more debt as some debt falls off. There’s employee and chemical costs. It’s never a fun decision to make when it takes money out of someone’s pocket.”

Council member Guy Wells said his peers had “backtracked” on what was decided in the work session and that option two “favored families who use a lot of water over everyone else.”

Fellow councilman Gene Hartman said a fixed rate increase that doesn’t consider usage will impact a smaller number of customers but present greater increases for customers who only use 1,000 to 2,000 gallons of water per month.

“Some people won’t necessarily save money but the overwhelming majority will,” said Schneider. “It is fair to say the lowest usage customers will see the largest increase. All I wanted to do tonight was ask council to reconsider option two and there will be ongoing discussion on the matter.”

At the end of 2014, the village water fund totaled $144,485, sewer money sat at $151,229, and storm sewer at $162,644.

In January, water was at $241,790, sewer $59,948, and storm sewer at $72,120. Around that time, $100,000 was borrowed from the village general fund to compensate for expected debt service.

According to the study, without a rate increase the water fund would be $49,047 in the red by 2020 and $162,818 the following year before any new debt is added.

There was no reading of an ordinance Tuesday regarding the rate increases and any such legislation must go through three readings before it is passed, according to council rules. Schneider said the final wording for the increases could be ready in time for council’s next meeting on Sept. 18.

If approved, the changes would go into effect in November after a 30-day waiting period.

Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.

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Council members and village officials discuss a prospective increase for water, sewer, and storm sewer services on Tuesday. members and village officials discuss a prospective increase for water, sewer, and storm sewer services on Tuesday.

Jonathan Delozier | Wellington Enterprise

By Jonathan Delozier