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Marengo sewer and water rate increase proposed

By NICK NARIGON

The city’s financial advisor said the city is losing money with its current water and sewer rates, and they need to be raised.

Jeff Heil, Northland Securities, told the Marengo City Council April 12 the city needs to raise the monthly sewer rate by $0.25 per 1,000 gallons just to maintain the current system.

“As many of these projects as I have done, we are not talking a dramatic increase on the sewer rates,” Heil said.

Currently, the city charges $3 per 1,000 gallons. Heil suggests the city raise the rate to $3.25 per 1,000 gallons, just to maintain the city’s current sewer system.

Currently, the minimum monthly bill is $5.10 per 1,000 gallons. Under the new proposal, Heil said the minimum monthly bill would increase to $8.10.

The proposed rates could increase the city’s sewer revenues by almost $70,000 a year, Heil projected.

Last year, he said the city’s sewer fund ended with a deficit of $2,322. Under the proposed rates, Heil said the sewer fund could have a possible surplus of $22,600 next year.

Heil did factor in a hypothetical $500,000 SRF loan into his configurations. The loan would cover several of the sewer repair projects the city plans to undertake, such as repairs to the sewer system from Lucas Street to North Street and the pipes at the lagoon.

“If you are just doing $100,000 to $150,000 in repairs, then you don’t have to go out and get an SRF loan. But if you do a lot of projects, you could take this 3.25 percent loan from the state and get all of these projects done,” Heil said.

As for the city’s water rates, Heil proposed the city raise the minimum base rate from $10.75 to $15. He also proposed the city raise the flow rate of $4.10 per $1,000 to $4.75 per 1,000 gallons.

Heil projected that in the current fiscal year, the city’s water fund will have a deficit of $69,000. With the new rates, he projected the city would have a surplus of $7,956 next year. However, even with the increase in rates, Heil said the city would begin to see a deficit again starting in fiscal year 2012 because the city is not keeping up with the 2.4 percent inflation rate.

“It is not cash flowing unless you subsidize with something else,” Heil said.

Heil said Marengo City Council should talk with members of the community before taking any action on the water and sewer rates.

“You should look toward July 1,” he said.

Marengo City Council member Kelli Krutsinger said the city should look at its rate history and look at what surrounding communities are charging.

“We will have some pretty ticked off people of we are going up $10 on their water bill,” Krutsinger said.

Marengo City Administrator Brent Nelson said the city will collect rate comparisons and look at the water and sewer rates at another meeting.

“We just want you to see the reality of it,” Nelson said.

LAGOON REPAIRS

Pipe repairs are ongoing at the city’s lagoon, reports Marengo Public Works Director Lonnie Altenhofen.

An underground pipe collapsed at the lagoon a few weeks ago and now is being repaired by Maxwell Construction. The collapsed pipe and another pipe that connects the north lagoon to the primary wet well are being replaced for the total cost of $57,500.

Altenhofen said other pipes at the lagoon are just as old, and made of the same material, as the collapsed pipe. He said in order to prevent future problems, the city should consider inserting slip-lining inside the existing pipes.

Slip lining is a poly-urethane lining that is drug the full length of the pipe. The lining is steam heated and hardens and serves as a plastic liner for the pipe, Altenhofen said.

“It is good for situations where it hasn’t collapsed. The sector of pipe we are looking at is substantially longer than what we just dug up, for a fraction of the cost,” Altenhofen said.

He said he is collecting bids for the slip-lining, but he estimates it will cost approximately $15,000.

CITY ATTORNEY

Williamsburg city attorney Eric Tindal will take over the duties of Marengo city attorney following the April 13 passing of Ken Martens.

Martens had been the Marengo city attorney for the last 10 years.

Tindal told the council Martens contacted him a few weeks back about taking over the city’s legal case involving the tax assessment of the former Pioneer property, titled the City of Marengo vs. Jones Elevator, Inc. The case is set to go to trial June 8. Tindal said Martens’ health had prevented him from working on the case.

Tindal said he is a native of Kalona and has lived in Williamsburg since 1997. He opened his law office in Williamsburg in 2000 and became the Williamsburg city attorney in 2002.

Until the City of Marengo finds a permanent city attorney, Tindal said he would charge the same rate as Martens.

“I am more than happy to help the City of Marengo in any way I can,” Tindal said.

Tindal did say he is interested in serving as the Marengo city attorney permanently. In a letter to the city dated April 8 in which Martens announced his resignation, Martens recommended the city hire Tindal as the Marengo city attorney.

“I have enjoyed my position as the Marengo city attorney and helping to move the city forward in every manner,” Martens wrote in his letter. “I with the city nothing but good luck in the future.”

SWIMMING POOL FEES

The City of Marengo will increase the rates for the Marengo Municipal Swimming Pool this summer.

The cost for a daily pass will remain $4.

A family pass (for up to six persons) will now cost different prices for people who live within the Iowa Valley District and those who live outside of the district. For people living inside the school district, a family pass will cost $115. A family pass will cost $130 for families that live outside the district. Last year, a family pass cost $100 for everybody.

A single season pass will be treated the same way. A single season pass for a person living inside the IV School District will cost $60. A single season pass for a person living outside the school district will cost $75. Last year, a single pass cost $55 for everybody.

Another change is the city will now sell a 10-day punch card instead of a weekly pass.

Last year, the city sold a weekly pass for $8.25 that was good for only one week. This year, the city will sell a punch card that has 10 punches for $35. The punch card can be used throughout the entire season.

MOSQUITO CONTROL

Marengo City Council hired Mosquito Control of Iowa to spray for mosquitoes again this year. The company will apply 12 treatments over the course of the summer for $10,500, the same amount they charged last year.

STREETSCAPE PHASE II

Nelson said a pre-construction meeting for phase II of the downtown streetscape project will be held April 21.

UPDATED April 21, 2010 11:57 AM

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