Council OKs changes in sewer rates

The New Prague City Council approved changes, or recalculations, for the sanitary sewer rates at its Monday, Sept. 16, meeting.

            City Administrative Services Director Patty Solheid presented the proposal to the council. It was noted the changes were being suggested due to concerns from residents about their sanitary sewer amounts. One is that monthly rate increases and recalculations are done separately. Customers will see the increase on their January bill and the recalculation on their March bill.

            City staff and representatives of Springsted Inc. evaluated the city’s rate structure. The city currently uses a five-month winter average (November through March) to calculate the sanitary sewer rates for all residential and commercial customers. Also, new customers, landlords and builders are billed the five-month water average of 4,100 gallons. Staff has found problems from using this system for billing the various customers mentioned above and snowbirds.

            City staff also conducted a survey of 10 cities including Princeton, Waseca, Shakopee, Jordan, Prior Lake, St. Peter, Belle Plaine, Northfield, Faribault and Owatonna. Out of those 10, four billed monthly consumption and the other six used a three to seven month average and billed either monthly or every two months.

            City staff recommended the following changes:

            • Bill residential customers using a three-month winter average (November-January). That way they will see sewer rate increases and recalculations at the same time.

            • Bill commercial customers actual monthly consumption used.

            • Bill snowbirds using their three month winter average.

            • Bill new accounts, builders and landlords with actual consumption until the next sewer calculation period and then use the three-month average.

            Mayor Chuck Nickolay said he definitely liked having the increase and the recalculation at one time.

            Council member Pat Scripture asked if the city had considered having two meters for commercial customers. One would be for business, the other for watering the lawn.

            Public Works Director Glen Sticha said some cities have done that, but they have had to hire personnel to keep an eye on the meters as some businesses have tried to steal water.

            The council approved the change 3-0 with Mayor Nickolay and council members Mark Bartusek and Shawn Ryan voting in favor. Council member Scripture abstained, as she was undecided about the change. Council member Dave Bruzek was absent from the meeting.