Eudora City Council approves water rate increase
The Eudora City Council approved Monday a $2 rate monthly increase in the water rate.
The silver lining for city water customers is that part of the increase will be used to pay for equipment needed to improve water quality — the No. 1 priority identified in a citizen survey of city services.
The increase by $2 the city’s month base water rate of $10.51 per meter.
The increase was anticipated during last summer’s 2010 city budget discussions. In a report to her fellow council members, Councilwoman Maria Nelson said year-end numbers were somewhat better than mid-year projections but not enough to forego the increase.
The department ended the year with a nearly depleted reserves, Nelson said.
“Right now, we don’t really have one,” she said. “There’s $6,000 in that account.”
Eudora City Administrator John Harrenstein said the biggest factor in the water department’s poor revenue performance was the absence of connection fees because of lack of new development in the recession.
Other factors were the length of time since the last rate increase, capital needs during the year and decrease water use, or sales, from the wet summer, Harrenstein said.
Harrenstein said state laws mandates the city maintain a reserve for utility funds. As such, the council approved a $346,000 transfer into the water fund from the electrical utility fund. Of that, $141,000 was earmarked for water department reserve fund.
But Nelson said that would only provide a buffer and without the rate increase the reserve would be depleted at the end of 2010. She and Councilman Jeff Peterson warned that unless housing starts improved the city could be looking at an additional rate increase as soon as next year.
The increase was approved 3-1, with Councilman Fred Stewart voting no and Bill Whitten absent.
“I don’t like the rate increase, but looking at the situation we’re in I don’t see any alternative,” Mayor Scott Hopson said. “Water quality is something we have to address.”
Although the depleted reserve drove the rate hike, 64 cents of the $2 increase will pay for installation of equipment needed to improve water quality.
To be installed will be influent metering that will improve the precision the city can add chemicals. Also to be installed are well metering controls that could allow 24 hour a day flow and better synchronization between inflow of water from wells and addition of chemicals.
The upgrades should improve water quality by 50 percent, said Brian Kingsley, of BG Consultants. But he said it might appear greater because of the state of the city’s current water quality.
The upgrades could be in place in four months, Kingsley said. The first step now that funding was assured would be to develop the details of the improvements to bring back to council in about a month, he said.
The council meeting opened with Jim Lenz of 106 Lakeview Lane complaint that city’s crews didn’t show up to clear the cul de sac he lives on of snow until Sunday afternoon. By that time, he hired a private contractor to remove the snow in front of his home.
Council members said they understood Lenz’s frustration, but the city’s established routine was to clear streets before cul de sacs.
Far from criticizing the snow removal effort, council members praised the work done in rare blizzard conditions in which blowing snow made it too dangerous to operate snow plows after dark. A crew of city supervisor Delbert Breithaupt and three employees dealt with ice, multiple snowstorms and heavy winds, which created the need to clear streets multiple times. They worked eight hours Christmas day, Saturday and into the afternoon Sunday.
Lenz also criticized the city’s answering service, Rueshoff Security, saying the operation told him she could not forward his calls because she couldn’t reach anyone from the city.
Council members agreed the complaint needed to be explored, and Harrenstein said he would be bringing the council a proposal on the city’s after-hours phone service in the near future.
Harrenstein also invited Lenz to make an appointment to speak to him about his complaints.