Water rates to be discussed Oct. 16

By Jonathan Delozier - jdelozier@aimmediamidwest.com

A special work session regarding proposed changes to Wellington’s water rates will be held at 6 p.m on Monday, Oct. 16 in village hall.

Water prices, as well as those for sewer and storm sewer services, were the subject of a study beginning this past January conducted by the Poggemeyer Design Group. The goal was to determine whether they were high enough to cover costs to the village.

In September, the study concluded that increases were needed to avoid further deficit spending and to create a surplus of 25 to 40 percent, which village officials say is necessary.

Three options have been considered: charging customers based solely on usage, setting a fixed monthly rate that would be equal among customers regardless of usage, or a combination of the two.

While early feedback after an Aug. 28 work session pointed toward option three as the popular choice, opinions had mostly swayed toward option two by village council’s ensuing regular meeting on Sept. 5.

With option two, a fixed rate, 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.

Village workers conducted an inventory of roughly 2,200 meters over the past two weeks, with about 30 needing small fixes, said mayor Hans Schneider.

“We needed to make sure our calculations on revenue are correct,” he said. “The numbers have been sent to Poggemeyer. It looks like we were nearly 100 percent accurate in our initial reads, but it was important to take another look. We’re basing this on X amount of five-inch meters and X amount of one-inch meters.”

Councilman Guy Wells has criticized the concept of a fixed rate, saying it “favors families who use a lot of water over everyone else.”

Fellow councilman Gene Hartman agreed that a fixed rate would cause bills to jump for customers who use smaller amounts of water each month (1,000 to 2,000 gallons) but said the approach will impact less customers than options one or three.

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’s a cost to doing business and a cost to having our own department,” said Schneider. “It’s not just the cost of producing water but the services that go along with that: the maintenance, the response if an issue does arise. This upcoming work session is open to the public and anyone who wants to weigh in on this is encouraged and welcomed to attend.”

The meeting will be broadcast live on the village’s Facebook page at https://goo.gl/qSoKxz.

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

By Jonathan Delozier