Baldwin City Council approves first reading of proposed sewer rate increases
The Baldwin City Council took action Monday on two measures that have been on its radar for some time.
The council approved 4-0 the first reading of sewer rate increases, which were recommended in from a rate study. The rate increases will be considered for adoption at the council’s May 4 meeting.
The council commissioned Springsted Inc. to do the rate study in October 2014 for $17,500. The study also looked at water rates, but any recommendation of that utility’s rates will wait until after the city discusses changes to the wholesale water price it charges the cities of Edgerton and Wellsville.
The council also approved adoption of the update of its five-year capital improvement project list, which has been the subject of several recent special meetings.
The sewer rate study tied the two actions together, because its proposed rate increases would pay for $500,000 of improvements next year at the city’s wastewater plant and an estimated $2.5 million sewer interceptor to the city’s east side, which were among the projects listed in the approved CIP. The interceptor, to be installed in 2017, would open up areas in east Baldwin City for development.
In a move meant to help low-income customers, the proposed rate increases would maintain the current $16-a-month base rate. The rate increases, which would be phased in from 2016 through 2018, would be to the city’s $3.85 consumption rate for each 100 cubic feet of water used. The proposed rate increase would raise the consumption rate to $4.43 in 2015, $5.33 in 2016 and $6.27 in 2017. The study finds the rate changes would raise an average city customer’s bill by $3.49 in 2015 and by $4.83 with the last of the phased-in increases in 2017.
The sewer rate was last raised in 2008. Brad Smith, the city’s financial director, said as a consequence the city has failed to adequately fund the wastewater department’s cash balance fund. By city policy, that fund is to end each year with a carryover equaling 35 percent of the department’s total annual operating expenses, but will fall $114,000 short of meeting that goal this year. The proposed rate increase would get the fund balance in a healthier place but wouldn’t achieve the 35 percent goal for five years.
With the cash balance fund now all but depleted, the wastewater department doesn’t have the cash on hand to make large emergency repairs or the $500,000 needed to replace the belt press and bar screen at the city wastewater plant, work the CIP slates to be done next year, Smith said.
Although that work can’t be delayed if the wastewater plant is to remain operational, the CIP list staff recommended and the council approved did come with the qualifiers that it was a planning document and that its projects can be added or deleted on an annual basis.
Decisions, however, loom with the crafting of the city’s 2016 budget during the next four months for several big-ticket facility projects included in the CIP. The 2016 projects include the $1.1 million theater at the Lumberyard Arts Center, $500,000 in City Hall renovations and a $2.5 million public works facility. Another big project, the $1.8 million police station, is slated for 2017.
Councilwoman Christi Darnell attempted unsuccessfully to add a community center to the CIP list with the support of Kathy Gerstner. They later voted against the CIP.
In other business, the council:
• Approved a special event application from the Baldwin City Chamber of Commerce to host of a car show June 6 downtown. The show, which is expected to draw 100 cars, will require closing traffic to some downtown streets from 7 p.m. June 5 to 5 p.m. June 6, and there will be an area reserved for craft beer vendors.
Darnell and Gerstner were critical of the organizers, Rusty Metal Productions, since changed “Pistons ’N' Pin ups” promotion of the event that featured a pin up on the poster and a “country-themed pin-up contest” during the car show.
• Approved the chamber’s special event application to close the 700 block of High Street on June 12 to provide food and entertainment for the expected 500 participants in the Bike Across Kansas tour, who will be in Baldwin City for the night.
• Approved a chamber request for its annual WineFest fundraiser for 1 to 5 p.m. July 18 in Joseph Spurgeon Park.