City Commission approves increased utility fees
City Commissioners voted unanimously during their May 16 meeting to approve fee increases for water, sewer and storm drain utilities.
The new rates go into effect June 1.
No members of the public spoke in opposition to the rate increase.
Staff annually reviews and analyzes the utility funds.
City proposing utility increases
The city adjusts utility rates to “provide adequate revenue to support operations, finance the capital improvements program, meet debt service coverage requirements and to maintain appropriate reserves,” according to the staff report.
Commissioners approved a 10 percent increase for water, sewer and storm drain bills for residential customers.
City to conduct survey of water and sewer rates, services 
For that customer class, an average water bill will increase by $1.83 from $18.35 to $20.18 monthly; an average sewer bill will increase by $2.39 from $23.90 to $26.29 monthly; an average storm drain bill will increase 66 cents from $6.60 to $7.26 monthly.
City receives $8.4 million in state ARPA funds
The average monthly residential utility bill will increase by $4.88, or 10 percent, according to staff.
For commercial customers, commissioners approved a 10 percent increase for water, sewer and storm drain utilities.
For that customer class, the average water bill will increase by $5.74 from $57.47 to $63.21 monthly; an average sewer bill will increase by $7.62 from $76.22 to $83.84 monthly; an average storm drain bill will increase 95 cents from $9.45 to $10.40 monthly.
The average monthly utility bill for commercial users will increase by $14.31, or 10 percent, according to staff.
City Commission to consider $11 million water treatment plant project contract
The city public works department looked at costs for tapping into the city water system and determined that a 10 percent increase won’t cover the costs for material, fuel, labor or inflation on the taps for a three-quarter, one, one and a half or two inch service lines.
The city last increased these utility fees in 2019 and is “significantly behind the curve on the cost of materials the city is providing on these taps,” according to the staff report.
But, the 10 percent increase is enough to cover costs for the four, six, eight and 12-inch main line taps since contractors are supplying those materials.
City considering contract for continuation of sewer repairs
The rate increase is to due to about $53.5 million in capital improvements needed over the next four years, according to staff.
Those projects include:
- ongoing water main replacements, $18.4 million
- water treatment plant upgrades, $25.2 million, includes the sludge processor and second phase of the filter media replacement and filter upgrades.
According to public works staff, the cost of the projects have increased.
The solids handling project at the water treatment plant was initially budgeted for $8 million, but came in close to $12 million due to inflationary increases, according to staff.
The 33rd Street tank is projected to cost $12 million for a new five million gallon tank, but public works staff is evaluating a repair solution that costs $3 million.
City developing plans for new federal rules on lead in drinking water 
Some projects identified for 2026 and 2027 include the Sunnyside pumpstation design and construction for $2 million; and the design and site acquisition for a new storage reservoir for $2.275 million, according to staff.
There are also some regulatory projects not included on the capital improvements projects list, including the lead service lines in the distribution system, as the city is researching the requirements for that federal rule change that will be placed on the city and property owners, according to staff.
Over the next decade, operating expenses at the water treatment plan are projected to grow from $6.2 million to $9.8 million, according to staff.
Those increases include rising costs for chemicals, electricity, labor and general inflation.
Chlorine costs have increased by 300 percent over last year and the other chemicals used at the water treatment plan have increased by at least 30 percent, according to city staff.
City to finalize $2 million grant for sewer crossing at June 7 meeting 
Electricity costs are expected to triple for the water treatment plant and wastewater treatment plant, according to staff.
Those facilities are the city’s largest consumers of electricity and the city’s electricity cost is increasing from $29.25 per megawatt hour to $89.95 per megawatt hour.
The city’s estimated annual electricity costs are expected to be about $900,000 for the water treatment plant and $540,000 for the wastewater treatment plant, according to staff.
City Commission to consider $4.8 million contract for water treatment plant 
Commissioners also approved a 10 percent increase in the monthly fee for fire hydrants.
The sewer increase is due to about $96.5 million in capital improvements over the next four years, according to staff.
Those projects include:
- ongoing sewer rehabilitation for $7.6 million
- wastewater treatment plant projects and improvements totaling $75.7 million with regulatory requirements in biological nutrient removal making up $63 million
- lift station rehabilitation for $12 million
Over the next decade, city staff projects operating costs at the wastewater treatment plant to increase from $5.9 million to $8.6 million.
Sanitation fuel costs have also increased for the wastewater treatment plant, according to staff. The plant is serviced by Republic, which charges a fuel fee to pick up waste.
According to the staff report, the city doesn’t have the trucks or staffing to accommodate those pickups, but the sanitation division is looking at purchasing a front loader and hiring staff. Once that service can be transferred from Republic to the city, it will lower that cost, according to staff.
The storm drain rate increase is due to maintaining the current system and for approximately $18 million in capital improvements needed over the next four years, according to staff.
Commissioners also approved a new fee for disconnecting service when accounts are delinquent and not paid by 5 p.m. on the day prior to shutoff to cover administrative and staff costs.