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Monett Council unveils sewer rate hike plan

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Plans to raise sewer rates in Monett were unveiled at the October meeting of the Monett City Council.

Utilities Superintendent Pete Rauch said the last time the city raised sewer rates was in 2002.

"We've run the sewer in the red for the past three years," Rauch said. "We've got important improvements to make and a plant to run."

Over the past decade, the city has spent about $100,000 a year with the Insituform company pumping a plastic lining into old clay tile sewer mains. The money came from the general fund.

Rauch would like to see sewer maintenance expenses come from sewer fees and to accelerate the lining process. "At the present rate," he said, "it would take decades to line all the miles of sewer mains in the system."

The rate increase Rauch proposed would phase in over three years, like the last water rate increase. Beginning Jan. 1, 2013, the first 2,000 gallons of water sent by a customer to the sewer plant would cost $14, up $2 from the present rate. The cost of each subsequent 1,000 gallons would be $2.25, up from $1.97 at present. A typical homeowner, using 5,000 gallons a month, would pay $2.78 more a month for the service.

In 2014, the base rate would rise an additional $2, and subsequent 1,000 gallons would cost $.20 more. An identical increase would be phased in at the beginning of 2015. The final rate, then, would be $18 for the first 2,000 gallons and $2.65 for each subsequent 1,000 gallons used.

Second reading of the ordinance with new rates was scheduled for Nov. 20.

With the city seeking assistance from the Missouri State Revolving Fund (SRF) for low interest loan money to build the new water treatment plant, another rate increase is in the future.

"DNR (the Missouri Department of Natural Resources) is compelling us to raise our water rate unit charge by 15 cents," Rauch said. "They want to make sure there's enough funds to cover the loan and system maintenance."

The study establishing Monett's water rates was done in 2008. To make sure the funds will be available six years later, DNR has directed the increase, which will not go into effect until April 2014. Rauch said he spoke to the three major industrial users and they understand the situation.

Public comment will be accepted on the proposal at the Nov. 20 meeting.

Another requirement to use the State Revolving Fund directs the city to revamp the way water revenues are kept. Rauch said when the city sought SRF money for the sewer plant upgrade, DNR asked to have separate accounts established for operation expenses and for maintenance. A similar change has now been requested for water funds.

No cost would come from adjusting the city's bookkeeping.

DNR also asked the city to adopt a series of definitions in its ordinances. "Operations and maintenance," "replacement," "water system," "useful life" and "user charge" were all included in the proposed ordinance.

Public comment on both ordinances will be taken at the Nov. 20 meeting.

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