McLouth city council wants to talk water rates
by Dennis Sharkey
The McLouth City Administrator Carl Chalfant wants the City Council to have a talk with residents about water rates.
Chalfant threw the issue on the table at the Tuesday, Oct. 19, meeting and outlined why the discussion needs to happen soon. Chalfant asked the council to consider a series of public meetings with the citizens to educate them about why a likely increase is needed. Mayor Keith Meador said he would reach out to community groups for meetings.
Before Chalfant got too far into a discussion Councilman Harlan Woodring pointed to a reality of the community.
“You’ve got people in this community on a fixed income and for the second year in a row there is no cost of living increase,” Woodring said. “You’re going to create a hardship.”
Chalfant said less than 10 percent of the city uses the minimum charge of water which is under 1,000 gallons. Current rates are $20 minimum and $8 for every additional 1,000 gallons. A typical house in McLouth uses between 3,800 and 4,200 gallons a month. A typical bill on average is $52.
Woodring asked Chalfant what the bare minimum increase could be. Chalfant said he would like to see rates return to the 2007 level of $26 minimum and $8 for every additional 1,000 gallons.
However, Woodring and Councilman George Bowen said why not charge the users of the water and leave the minimum charge alone. Chalfant said raising the usage fee an additional $1 could generate about $13,000 a year, which would get the city closer to the needed projection.
Chalfant said since the city lowered water rates they have been hit with two increases from their supplier Rural Water District No. 13. Additionally water main breaks are costing the city $25,000 on average each time one occurs which is depleting the city capital improvement fund. Additionally Chalfant said if rates are raised enough, the city could pay off all of the original $1.1 million revolving loan that was used to upgrade the system in six years. The system was upgraded in 1997.
Bowen said the city should crunch numbers to determine what increase would be enough to avoid another increase next year.
“If you hit them this year and then hit them again next year, they’re going to say, ‘What is this?’” Bowen said.
Councilwoman Barbara Hasemeier said she is concerned that the water fund has depleted reserves and that water rates should be used to build up reserves. Meador said in order to accomplish her wish the city would have to raise rates to an unsustainable level for many residents. Meador said the city is not financially in trouble when it concerns the water fund. However, if something is not done to address the issue they will be.
“We’re not to that point,” Meador said. “That’s why we’re addressing it. I don’t want to raise rates but we can’t keep going at our current rate. We’re just scraping the top of being able to pay for what we purchase and that’s not a good way of doing business.”
Chalfant said in the past three years the city has operated at a deficit between $28,000 and $30,000 in the city’s water fund. Those funds have been supplemented by the general fund.
A history of the city’s water saga since the 1980s can be found on the city’s Web site at cityofmclouth.org.
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