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Village Water Rates to Increase Oct 1st

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For the first time in 14 years, the Village of Grass Lake water rates are about to go up. After a lengthy discussion at the Village Council Meeting on August 16th, the Council voted to increase water rates for Village residents. The rate changes will go into effect starting with the October billing.

Paul Lammers, Village DPW (Department of Public Works) Supervisor presented the council with proposed rate changes based on current expenses, budget shortfalls, estimated costs of water tower repairs and meter replacements. He also presented comparable rates from other municipalities where they were averaging a 6% annual increase.

The Council voted to raise quarterly rates by $10 ($3.33 per month), add a $2.08 monthly water meter replacement fee and a $2.50 monthly water tower maintenance fee for standard lines at residences. Additional increases for larger lines also increased. Currently the water bills are billed quarterly. The Council also voted to change to monthly billing. Sewer bills are already monthly, so there will be little additional cost. The rate changes become effective with the October billings.

Current rates are $27.50 quarterly, which works out to $9.16 monthly for typical households. Excessive water usage and larger connections incur additional rates.

The increase in base rates will generate an estimated $29,000 per year in additional revenue. Currently the water funds are running an approximate $30,000 deficit.

Monies from the Meter Replacement Fee will be used exclusively for replacing water meters at residences every 10 years. The typical lifespan for a water meter is only 10 years. The current cost of a water meter is $250. Taking the $250 cost, dividing by 10 years, then dividing by 12 months comes out to $2.083333.

Replacing water meters will have long term benefits as well. Currently 41 of the meters in the Village do not work, or are running slow. Lammers said “they never run faster, so folks are getting the benefit of the doubt with those meters.” Those customers are being charged on estimated usage from previous years.

The older meters require being read and entered manually. It currently takes almost 4 days to read the meters within the Village Lammers said. The new meters are ARR (Automated Radio Readers), meaning they can be read without accessing the meter itself, which is often located in a meter box in the ground. The DPW will be able to walk or drive by the house, and read the meter using a radio frequency. These new devices allow for more accurate and faster collection of water usage readings than the current manual method and improve safety conditions for the DPW employees. Lammers estimates the 4 days of work will be able to be done with 6-8 hours once all the meters in the Village have been replaced. Currently only a small fraction of the meters are the newer ARR meters.

The $2.50 Water Tower Maintenance Fee will be set aside for water tower maintenance. Tom Nolte said “The tower will need to be repainted sometime in the next 5 to 6 years and the estimated cost of that process is expected at between $350,000 to $400,000.” While the $2.50 fee will not cover the full costs of the repainting, it will “provide at least the opportunity to bond the cost of repainting the tower”.

A similar project in Norwalk, OH cost $525,000. Josh Snyder, Norwalk public works director, broke down that process. “They will be sand-blasting the rust off and doing some metal repairs.” Snyder said this work is complicated.

“This is specialized work,” he said. “This involves painting systems and epoxy paints. It uses a special primer and requires multiple coats of paint. It also will take a top-coating on the exterior.  “It’s not like we can go up there with a can of Rust-Oleum” he said.

The Village Water system has approximately 540 customers. The bond on the existing system currently has 6 years left, with annual payments of $125,000 due each February according to Tom Nolte.

The Village is in the process of reviewing all their capital improvement funds and rate charges across all their services to verify they will meet both the current and the future needs.

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