New England city council votes to raise water, sewer rates

On Monday, Dec. 1 the city council of New England unanimously voted to increase the water and sewer rates, something that hasn’t changed since 2008.

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By COLE BENZ | Herald Editor | cbenz@countrymedia.net

On Monday, Dec. 1 the city council of New England unanimously voted to increase the water and sewer rates, something that hasn’t changed since 2008.

The new water rate will be $12 for the first 1,000 gallons, then for every 1,000 gallons after that the rate will be $9. Formerly the rate was $6 per 1,000 gallons.

The sewer rate also increased from 10 percent to 20 percent.

Along with raising the water and sewer rates, the council also raised the bulk water rate from $15 to $22.

Rate change was made for two reasons, the price of water, and future city projects.

On Nov. 10 the council was notified that Southwest Water would be raising their rates, and according to New England City Auditor Jason Jung, the increase was larger than in years past.

“They (Southwest Water) increased their rate to us, and it was a little more significant rate going into 2015 than they have in the past,” Jung said. “It’s costing us a lot more money through Southwest Water now. We had to take a look at rates to compensate for that.”

The city roughly uses 27 million gallons per year.

The rate change from Southwest Water equates to an increase in cost of $8,910 per year to the city of New England. Jung said the increase was 33 cents and is calculated per units of 1,000. So the city uses 27,000 units of 1,000 gallons, equating to the $8,910 figure.

The other portion of the change, the sewer rate increase, is aimed more towards the future and the upcoming water project in New England. According to Mayor Marty Opdahl, the USDA would not consider the city for future grant money for repairs to the sewer system because of where the rate amount is.

“What they told us, is you’re not going to get any grant money because you haven’t kept up on the sewer maintenance like you should, and the only way you can be considered for grants in the future on the sewer side of it is that you raise the rates, that people are paying their share. They don’t want the federal government to come in and give grant money to replace the sewer if the city isn’t doing their part to try to raise some of the money to do it too,” Opdahl said.

Opdahl said this is part of the reason that sewer repairs were moved from Phase 1 of the project to Phase 2. By moving the projects portions around, the city may qualify for more grant money in the future.

“Future grant money, rather than loan money,” Opdahl said.

The council’s biggest concern regarding the sewer was that future funding they may or may not qualify for.

“We should be fine, if they see that we’re making a qualified effort to pay for some of this ourselves,” Opdahl said.

With the rate increases, the council also hopes to build up their utilities account in the event a repair is needed, or something else comes up.

“A lot of what we did on Monday night is for the future,” Opdahl said.

Though council woman Lisa Plaggemeyer was absent, there were five out of six voting members present so the council had a quorum.

The rate increases will go into effect on Jan.1, 2015.

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