Archive for Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Sewer rate increasing 5 percent

October 12, 2005

Tonganoxie residents will see an increase in sewer rates, starting in January.

Monday night, city council members, on a 4-1 vote, approved the rate hike, as well as a new formula for determining what customers pay.

¢ Currently, city sewer rates are $7.06 monthly minimum, plus $2.95 for every additional 1,000 gallons of water used. The minimum is charged for the first 1,000 gallons of water used.

¢ Under a plan approved Monday by Tonganoxie City Council members, local sewer rates will be based on the average amount of water used during three winter months.

¢ The rate will increase to $11.80 monthly minimum, plus $3.45 for every additional 1,000 gallons of water used.

¢ Council members said they thought adopting a sewer rate structure based on winter water use was fairer to local residents who use water more during summer months.

¢ Had the council not adopted the winter-average rate structure, they could have adopted another option: increasing the monthly minimum to $7.42 and the charge for each additional 1,000 gallons to $3.45.

The rate increase is designed to increase city sewer revenues by 5 percent from the current level. That additional money is necessary, city officials say, to offset osts from the new sewage treatment plant.

Sewer rates are based on Tonganoxie residents' water use. In the past, as water use has increased in the summer -- as residents water their lawns and gardens and wash their vehicles more frequently -- sewer rates also increased.

Under the new rate structure that council members approved Monday, sewer rates will be based on residents' average water use during winter months.

And that set well with council member Jason Ward.

"I do water my lawn, and I do wash my car," he said. "I've always wondered if I was being penalized for that because that water's not going down the sewer. It's going into the street or into my yard."

According to Kathy Bard, assistant city administrator, 40 percent of the city's customers pay only the minimum rate.

It appeared at Monday night's meeting that several council members were reluctant to increase rates, and council member Ron Cranor asked City Administrator Mike Yanez for his recommendation. Cranor was the sole dissenting vote.

"I don't have a recommendation," Yanez said. "I've been in this community only six months. I haven't heard from the clientele as long as the members of this body have, who have lived here for decades, in some cases.

"The bottom line to the governing body is that I need rates that would bring in this level of revenues."

Yanez said the amount of money collected in 2006 from sewer customers should total about $373,500.

Council president Velda Roberts said that she favored switching to the winter-average rate, "based on multiple contacts from citizens over a significant period of years."

"People don't mind paying for the water they use," she said. "They don't like paying a charge for water that is not going down the sewer."

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