Proposed Sewer Rate Increase Tabled by Board of Public Works; Substation Breaker Will Be Replaced
The Auburn Board of Public Works (BPW) will continue discussion of a sewer rate increase and continued discussion of water rates Monday, Jan. 9.
After about a 30-minute discussion, the board tabled increasing sewer rates. BPW management has recommended an average 3 percent sewer rate increase. That included lower monthly minimums and increased usage fees. Sewer rates were not increased in 2011.
In discussing the issue, board members said that customers have asked why BPW officials requested more money; the board favored reduced monthly minimums; the need to provide quality service; the importance of providing service to customers from multiple communities and that the more customers served, rates were lower.
“We need to listen to those that we’re supposed to represent,” said Dick Hahn, board chairman.
David Hunter, BPW general manager, said that management calculated what was needed for revenue based on the budget. The proposal would generate a little less than $30,000 increased income, he said.
BPW officials are trying to break even with the sewer system. Even with the new wastewater treatment plant, he said that officials have a long way to go to get the system into decent operating conditions. The sewer department has little or no reserve, Hunter said.
The proposal included:
Residential: $25 monthly minimum and usage fee of 0.0051 per gallon. That included single family dwelling units within the Auburn city limits.
General service: $22 monthly minimum and usage fee of 0.00875 per gallon. That included commercial businesses and customers not meeting any other classification within the Auburn city limits.
Rural service: $23 monthly fee and usage fee of 0.00875 per gallon. That included single family dwelling units and commercial businesses not meeting other classification outside the city limits.
Industrial: $29.90 monthly minimum and usage fee of 0.00875 per gallon.
Metered sewer service: $22 monthly fee and usage fee of 0.00875 per gallon, depending on the size of the meter. That included sewer usage measured by a flow meter or having a water meter installed that measures only water that flows to the sewer system.
Sewer service with no water: $23 monthly minimum with no usage fee. That included sewer service to the property with no water meter installed to the property.
BPW officials are trying to keep any increase as low as possible. Board members favored reducing the monthly fee and placing more costs on usage.
Hunter said that it was not operating or labor costs that were driving the rate increases, it was what was borrowed to upgrade the system.
Management has not recommended a new rate.
Hunter said that BPW officials want to try to keep any increase as low as possible and that management wants to try to keep the water department whole.
“We don’t want to borrow money to keep the water department operating,” he said.
Based on 5,000 gallon usage, Auburn water customers pay $40.60. Comparable usage in other systems included: $56 in Louisville; $30.05 in Beaver Lake; $56 in the Nemaha Rural Water District; $21.70 in Nebraska City and $49.45 in Fairbury. In Fairbury, water usage is measured in cubic feet, not gallons.
Based on the affordable index used by U.S. Department of Agriculture officials, anyone making $20,000 pays 2.4 percent of their gross income for water usage, which officials called an affordable rate.
Breaker at Substation To Be Replaced
Board members were told that it would cost about $10,000 to replace a breaker at a substation. On Tuesday morning, Dec. 27, a squirrel entered the substation which caused a short which led to a brief outage for customers in Auburn, Brownville and Johnson.
A replacement breaker was ordered. It will take one to two days to install. Officials hoped to have the breaker installed before colder weather arrived. BPW officials are operating off the south substation, which can carry the load as long as the weather allowed.
Hunter said that squirrels are the major cause of outages. There were two squirrels which have caused outages during the past five years, he said.
“If we keep them out of substations, we’re doing great,” Hunter said.
Hunter said that the water plant was operating good. He said that there was an issue with the SCADA computer failing every three to four days.
BPW officials are still working on paperwork to comply with the Buy America Compliance Audit, related to filter and filtering equipment and dehumidifier equipment into the plant. Until those issues are resolved, BPW officials cannot close out the project.
Water losses were discussed. From January-November 2011, there were 155,243,500 gallons of water pumped and 102,009,440 gallons of water sold. December 2011 figures were unavailable. The biggest piece of the puzzle was losing a lot of water at the reservoir. Normal water losses are in the 10-15 percent range. Officials need to figure out how much water was being lost.
Request for Connection to Sewer
A request from Tommy Grafton to connect to the city sewer was approved. Grafton is building a residence on the former Lawrence Hector property. The property is connected to city water. The city sewer that runs behind the residence comes off the water reservoir.
Auburn city codes indicated that if a property is a vacant lot with no water or sewer service, it has to come into the city limits. If it is an existing customer, the septic tank can be connected without coming into the city limits, which the property has. BPW officials encouraged connection to the city sewer if the city sewer was available and there was the capacity.
A request to pay a total of $13,415.08 in unused 2011 sick leave bonuses was approved. That involved 14 employees out of 26 eligible. Of the 14 employees involved, six used no sick days in 2011.
Plans are to have the 2011 financial audit/single audit available to board members at the Monday, March 12, meeting. Hamilton & Associates representatives plan to conduct the field work Monday, Feb. 20. The BPW board approved a three-year contract with Hamilton & Associates last year. The single audit is required because more than $500,000 in federal funding was spent. 2011 may be the last year that a single audit is required.
Discussed the requirement of potential conflict of interest statements from BPW officials. The statements would be filed with the Auburn city clerk.
Water Department: Hunter reported that Jay Theye and Jeremy Griepenstroh completed their wastewater testing and received their certificates.
He said that BPW officials are going to Peru nearly every other day. Water usage has decreased and leaks are being repaired, he said. Hunter said that officials of both BPW and Peru are happy with the agreement of providing a water operator to Peru. He said that operating the water and wastewater system was a learning experience for both parties.
Nemaha village officials are seeking a water operator. Hunter planned to attend the January Nemaha Village Board meeting.
2011 Federal Emergency Management Agency Flood Assistance: Hunter said that paperwork was completed regarding 2011 flood damage at Brownville. He said that a $16,000 claim was submitted. Officials should receive 75 percent reimbursement.
New Radios: New radios which were installed are working well. The system was upgraded to narrow band, which meets Federal Communications Commission requirements. The new equipment allowed better coverage than the previous system, Hunter said.