Council will adjust storm, sanitary sewer fees

Patrick Fisher

Staff Writer

The New Prague City Council began taking steps at its Monday meeting to adjust the city’s sewer use rate, sewer connection fee, establish a per acre charge and storm water rate adjustment.

New Prague City Administrator Jerry Bohnsack presented the items asking for a consensus from the council with a resolution to be presented at a later meeting. There would be increases in both the storm sewer and sanitary sewer fees, which would help the city pay for some improvements and for the operation and maintenance of the New Prague Wastewater Facility.

Currently a residential customer’s storm sewer billing is $2.31 a month for 2005. It was proposed that there be a 7 percent increase each year beginning in 2006 until 2010. There would also be an annual $2,200 area charge for commercial properties until 2020. Bohnsack said there hasn’t been an increase in these fees since the early 1990s.

Under this proposal, a residential customer’s storm sewer bill would be $2.47 per month in 2006.

The council discussed the 7 percent increase. It was suggested that a similar increase also be made to the area charge each year, which would help balance out the charges. The council’s consensus was to include the increase in the area charges.

The council also discussed sanitary sewer fees. A typical residential customer currently using 8,000 gallons of water a month would have a sewer bill of $27.10.

Bohnsack presented three scenarios. Under two of those scenarios, hook-up charges would remain the same, acreage fee would be $5,000 and both fees would be increased 5 percent each year through 2010.

The downside to these two scenarios would be a projected deficit in 2008. The deficit would gradually lessen over the years, but remain.

The third scenario would have hook-up charges increase to $5,000, acreage fees increase to $8,000 and both fees would see a 5 percent increase each year. Customer charges would be increased 10 percent between 2006-2010 and the wastewater treatment plant would use $2 million up-front monies to buy down the cost of the bond. The residential customer using 8,000 gallons would have a bill of $29.81.

With this scenario, the city’s deficit would last for only two years, and turn into a surplus beginning in 2010.

The third scenario would mean higher hook-up charges in New Prague when compared to surrounding communities.

Mayor Craig S. Sindelar asked what the outcome would be if the city were to charge $4,200 in hook-up charges. He felt the lower rate would put the city more in line with all of its neighbors.

Bohnsack said that most of New Prague’s neighbors will not have to meet the same type of effluent standards that New Prague will have.

The decrease of $800 would change the projected surplus to a deficit.

Council member Kay Wilcox said she didn’t want to leave large deficits for future city councils. The rest of the council seemed to agree, as they came to a consensus to go with the third scenario, without any changes.

The council will be acting on these proposals at a future meeting.

Council OKs Biostyr option

In other action, the city council unanimously approved a feasibility plan for upgrading the New Prague Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The council has been collecting information over the past several months to decide on how best to update the existing plant. There were three choices before the council, an upgraded trickling filter plant, an oxidation ditch plant or a Biostyr plant.

City staff studied information provided by the engineering firm of Short Elliott Hendrickson, Inc. and recommended the Biostyr plant. The new plant could be built and eventually expanded on the current site of the wastewater treatment plant, while the other two would require relocation in 20 years. Construction costs for the Biostyr plant — approximately $26.5 million, is more than the filter plant option and less than the oxidation ditch plant option.

The next step in the process is to submit information to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for review.

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