New Baldwin City Council members sworn in after old council approves sewer rate increase
wo important items of business were taken care of quickly Monday at the Baldwin City Council meeting.
The outgoing city council approved the second reading of a measure raising sewer rates, and three new members elected last month received the oath of office for four-year terms.
The sewer rate increase was approved on a 3-0 vote with Councilwoman Kathy Gerstner and councilmen Jason Mock and Ken Wagner all voting yes. Councilman Shane Starkey missed the meeting because of a death in the family, and Councilwoman Christi Darnell did not arrive until after the vote.
The measure leaves the city’s $16-a-month base rate unchanged. With its passage, sewer customers next month will see an increase from $3.85 to $4.43 in the consumption rate charged for each 100 cubit feet of water used. That rate will increase again in January 2016 to $5.33 per 100 cubit feet and to $6.27 in 2017.
The city bases sewer rates on the amount of water customers use in December, January and February so that residents are not charged for water that doesn’t get treated in the sewer system, such as water used on lawns or in swimming pools.
The rate increase, which was developed with the aid of a rate study the city’s financial consultant, Springsted Inc., completed, was the first since 2008. Figured into the rate increases were debt service on $500,000 the city plans to borrow to fund vital repairs at the sewer plant next year and debt service on $2.5 million to be borrowed for a sewer line extension to the city’s east side now on city’s capital improvement list for 2017.
Wagner, who served on the utilities committee with Mock, said the increase was needed to rebuild the sewer department’s depleted reserve account. Even with the increase, the reserve account won’t be funded at 35 percent of the department’s annual operating expenses by 2020, but it would be in much healthier condition, Wagner said.
The outgoing council also followed up on its resolution authorizing the sale of bonds for the purchase of a KCP&L service rights for the business park and six homes on North Sixth Street. City Administrator Chris Lowe said the issue of KCP&L’s late price hike had been resolved and price for the service area was the $655,000 originally negotiated.
Lowe said he and city finance director Brad Smith looked into concerns that companies in the business park would buy less power from the city through the installation of solar panels. Only one business had any interest in solar power, and only Wagner’s Heritage Tractor had enough ground to generate significant solar power, Lowe said.
Furthermore, revenue estimates used to figure the bonds' debt retirement were “conservative,” Smith said.
“We could lose 50 percent of the revenue projected and still cover the debt service,” he said.
With that old business approved, Steve Bauer, Tony Brown and David Simmons were sworn in to the council, taking the seats of Mock, Starkey and Wagner.
The council then elected Gerstner council president on a 3-2. Bauer, Darnell and Gerstner voted for Gerstner, while Brown and Simmons voted for Brown.