No input from the public was offered as Monett City Council members sat down yesterday to hear views on the proposed water and sewer rate increases.
Base rates for water and sewer service will rise by $2 each with the billing period beginning June 1. The proposal was introduced when city council members unveiled the 2009-10 budget in March.
Utilities Superintendent Pete Rauch said he had received no phone calls from customers about the proposals, thanks to public meetings and plans for system improvements for allaying potential public reservations.
Rauch said that 95 percent of service orders, reported monthly to the council, go to residential customers, though 70 percent of water usage is by industry. At times two service trucks make the daily calls, ranging from changing meters to turning on and off water service at customer request.
"The minimum charge will not cover the cost of running two trucks," Rauch said.
"I still think water is a true bargain," Rauch said, with customers getting 2,000 gallons for $12, or $6 for senior citizens.
The city pays $350,000 alone in electric fees to run its various well pumps. Revenues from water sales pay for drilling and running wells as well as running and maintaining the pipe system.
Capital improvements planned for the water system include initially installing a series of pipes to run water from the biggest producing well, number nine, on County Street, the North Park well and the new well, number 21, on the Jack Henry and Associates campus.
The piping would transport water from the city's largest producing wells to a proposed water treatment plant designed to remove muddiness from the water. A bond issue will be needed to pay for building the treatment plant.
Rauch explained that the proposed treatment plant could treat three million gallons a day, all of which could come from the three wells. If the city could count on its main supply coming from only three wells, that would leave nine more wells to provide capacity for the community.
Rauch said how he and Dean Willis, engineer on the city's water system with the Joplin firm of Allgeier, Martin and Associates, went to see a treatment plant comparable to the one proposed for Monett in West Plains. The plant is a component system, expanding treatment capacity by easily adding pieces of the same equipment.
Mayor Jim Orr asked if the plant could treat surface water, like Missouri American does in drawing from Spring River for the city of Joplin. Rauch said a second treatment stage would have to be added to give the city such capabilities.
Referring to the study Willis prepared on Monett's water system, Mayor Orr commended Rauch on having no more than 6 percent of the city's pumped water lost on the way to meters.
"We have an extremely low loss rate," Rauch replied. "Lost water is literally money down the drain." According to the American Waterworks Association, any loss under 10 percent is "doing really well," Rauch added.
The water study, the mayor said, referred to the city serving 8,700 customers, about 1,300 more than the population signs posted with the last federal census. Orr said the total was in line with the population projection for the 2010 census.
Rauch said he generally tells people the city serves a population of around 8,000. With industrial water use, Rauch said the city's system provides water for the equivalent of 60,000 people.
"That's tremendous," Rauch said, "and a big responsibility. This town will not operate without water, and this is a good longterm water plan."
"We've got to have water when we need it," Orr said.
No base rate increases are proposed for water or sewer for 2010. Volume usage beyond the base is planned for the next two years.
Even with the base rate increase, Rauch said the sewer system will run a deficit, due to depreciation. The sewer system operates well because of economy of scale, due to the capability of handling volume use from industry.
Rauch has put flow meters in place to track where the sanitary sewer lines see a major flow boost during rainy weather, indicating storm water is getting into the sanitary system. Tracking the source of the storm water inflow will lead city crews to smoke testing. Sources of inflow on private property will surface then, and residents will be asked to make appropriate repairs.
"I feel we need to get a good handle on our own situation [in maintaining the city system] before we mandate residential repairs," Rauch said. "Once we do, we will go to the public, asking them to step up and fix service lines that have deteriorated."
Final reading of the ordinance implementing the rate changes has been scheduled for the regular monthly meeting on May 20.