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Monett City Council proposes water, sewer rate increases to cover major system improvements

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Monett Utilities Superintendent Pete Rauch at right shows off the general plan devised for upgrading the city's water system. The red lines show plans for new 12-inch water mains to carry purified water from a new treatment plant planned for the former Rutherford farm on the northwest of town. The green lines show mains that will be built from chronically muddy wells to the treatment plant. The completed network of new mains and improvements will significantly increase the city's available water supply, and potential for the future. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
The City of Monett's proposed budget for 2009-10 calls for a major increase in water and sewer rates over the next three years Changes in billing would be effective on July 1.

Sewer rate changes, according to the budget statement prepared by City Administrator Dennis Pyle, are coming, because the current rate schedule is not covering expenses. The city's last audit for the fiscal year ending on March 31, 2008, showed the sewer operation ran $294,025 in the red and projected a loss of $320,848 for the current fiscal year, ending March 31, 2009.

To remedy that, the city is proposing an across-the-board rate increase of $2 for the first 2,000 gallons of water used, plus an increase of 30 cents for each 1,000 gallons after that.

Consequently, the average residential consumer of 6,000 gallons per month would pay an additional $3.20 per month more. This increase was expected to raise an additional $360,000 a year, covering the ongoing loss.

The proposed water rate increase would fund only one part of major improvements to the city's system. Utilities Superintendent Pete Rauch has been concerned about the city's water capacity since the 2005-06 drought. While the city's electricity capacity has been built up and the waste treatment plant expanded, water remains a vulnerable point.

The plan calls for building a new water treatment plant to make drinkable water out of well water that is presently not usable. A network of mains to bring water to the plant and distribute it through the system is also included.

In the current budget, $250,000 is allocated for engineering to plan how the piping network could be built. Easements would have to be purchased as well.

Extending the whole idea for maximum effect, Rauch has also included the idea of running a 12-inch water main 17,000 feet from the city on Highway 60 to the airport. The well at the airport can produce 600 gallons a minute, he said, but because there is little demand there at present, the well only has a 85-gallon-per-minute pump in it.

A main between the airport and the city would allow the airport well to be hooked into the city's supply and open the door for additional wells to be drilled for the city between the airport and the city. Rauch indicated the supply would provide water for any industry choosing to build on the Monett Industrial Development Corporation's land east of the airport as well.

He indicated a water tower could also be built at the airport to service the airport and an adjacent industrial park. The distance to the airport was no further than running a main from the Rutherford farm to Highway 37 and around to Chapell Drive.

All the work laid out in the current water study would cost approximately $13.5 million. Paying for that breaks down to an average increase of $1.23 per 1,000 gallons per customer.

To cover that cost, the city is planning to phase in a 40-cent-per-1,000 gallon increase in the coming fiscal year, then another 40-cent increase in the following year. The increase will be equal for industrial customers, who use 70 percent of the city's water, and residential customers. The average residential customer would pay approximately $3.60 a month more for using 6,000 gallons.

Typical household use is about 5,300 gallons, Rauch said. Senior citizens, who tend to use only around 2,000 gallons a month, will see their base rate go up by only $1 per month.

The $13.5 million figure is based on contracting out the work and paying prevailing wage. Rauch said Water Department crews are trained to lay mains and can probably cut the cost significantly by installing most of the pipes themselves, even with the periodic cost of renting a track-hoe for heavy digging.

A third year to phase in the final 40-cent increase to cover costs is planned. However, Rauch said after two years, calculating in the savings possible by having city crews do much of the work, the cost will be re-evaluated before implementing the third increment of rate increases.

A bond issue will be needed to build the water treatment plant itself. Rauch figured the proposal may be ready to go to voters in April 2010.

Industrial customers have been alterted to the proposal, so that they can budget accordingly. When the water supply gets tight, conservation by industrial customers can save as much water as turning off the entire residential customer base, Rauch observed. Water rates in other cities where Tyson Foods has processing plants still shows Monett's rates, even with an increase, would stay very favorable for business, he added.

The water plan may change over the next 10 years, as the current plan is different from past projections. Still, Rauch said the proposal gives the city an idea of what direction to go. If a major water user like Tyson wanted to add another line of production to a Monett plant, bringing more jobs here, Rauch wants to be able to say without hesitation that Monett can handle the demand. The proposed improvements would make such an assertion possible.

TOMORROW: Department spending plans

Monett water plan detailed


The Monett City Council's advisory board had declared laswt year that water should be the city's top priority. Utilities Superintendent Pete Rauch unveiled his plan for upgrading the city's water system to the advisory panel last week, and the reasons for the proposed water rate increase.

Dean Willis, the engineer with the Joplin firm of Allgeier, Martin and Associates, is nearing completion of his study on Monett's water system. Rauch said he and Willis have talked at length about how to approach the problem, and key to the solution will be construction of a water treatment plant on the former Rutherford farm on the northwest end of town.

There is not a need at this time, Rauch said, to build a two-tier treatment plant to convert stream or rain water run-off into drinking water. The city has an adequate supply of water from its deep water wells. In addition, the technology for treating surface water is still evolving.

By the time Monett needs to incorporate such technology, Rauch felt the methodology would be cheaper and more effective than it is today. The cost to build a well water treatment plant alone would cost between $8.5 million and $9 million. The second tier could be added onto that plant when needed.

The plan for now is to build a well water treatment plant on the Rutherford farm that will take the muddiness out of two wells that are major producers, turning them into reliable sources for the system. Those two wells are the last one built by the city, number 21, on the Jack Henry and Associates campus south of Highway 60, which has never been put on line, and the well at North Park, number 12, affectionately known as "Old Muddy" for its history of turning cloudy, or turbid.

To incorporate such a treatment plant into the system, major 12-inch water mains would have to be built to get water from the two wells in question to the plant, plus another network of mains to put the water back into the system. Rauch showed the advisory board a map he prepared to show changes.

Another problem with the city's current system, he explained, is that the standpipes in the Industrial Park cannot be drained completely without significantly impacting the water pressure overall. The new water tower built by Lowe's is under pressure and can be fully used. The bottom 50 feet of the Industrial Park towers need to stay in place to maintain pressure.

Also, with the current arrangement, there can be plenty of water in the system, and the Industrial Park towers still have 10 to 12 feet of empty space on top and no way to force water in to fill them from elsewhere in the system. The unfilled space adds up to around 220,000 gallons of water that could be held but is not now.

The plan Rauch displayed calls for running a new 12-inch water main from the Rutherford property around County Road and Eisenhower, north to Highway 37, across the north end of North Park, under H Highway east to Chapell Drive, then south to Cleveland (Business Highway 60). This loop would channel water from the treatment plant to the Industrial Park, which has a pressurized line running north on Chapell Drive to Cleveland.

With this link, Rauch will be able to install an altitude valve on the Industrial Park standpipes. This valve will enable water to bleed into the storage towers to fill them completely.

In addition, Rauch would like to complete the loop by running a new 12-inch main from Chapell Drive at Wellington, connecting to the new tower at Lowe's, south to Farm Road 2020, then west to Moge Road, hooking into the 12-inch mains at Dwayne Eoff's subdivision by the south standpipe. Another line could be built from that standpipe west to Eisenhower, and run north to Brandermill.

The southwest subdivisions off Eisenhower presently have minimal pressure. Their water comes from a network of small lines running through the subdivisions between Highway 37 and Eisenhower, rather than having a direct line.

A loop all the way around town would maximize delivery of water throughout the city, Rauch said. It would offer access to city water to houses going up around the edges of town, thus discouraging the construction of dozens of private wells. As for future storage, Rauch foresees the need for a new water tower on the ridge on the northeast corner of town, connecting to the new mains in the plan.

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