Council extends Szakacs contract, raises hookup fees

EVART—City Manager Zack Szakacs will continue in his position for three more years after the Evart City Council extended his $65,500 per year contract.

The council went into closed session – at Szakacs’ request – to discuss the extension, and approved it unanimously.

Szakacs’ contract will end Dec. 31, 2016, and after that Szackas said he likely will retire. His extended contract removes the severance pay option and offers no increase in salary.

The council also approved increasing the tap-in fees for water and sewer hookups and increased the sewer rate by 47 cents.

The new fees are $1,000 for a water hookup and $1,500 for sewer. Previously, the cost for water was $675 and $1,150 for sewer.

Department of Public Works Director Buck Vallad said the rates have stayed the same for nearly 20 years.

“The cost of doing business has gone up,” Vallad said. “Every time we have to dig into the road to tap somebody in, we have to replace concrete from the curb, concrete from the sidewalk, asphalt from the road, the pipe going into the road and everything else associated with it, plus the labor and equipment costs.”

The new rates are comparable to neighboring communities, which also are raising rates for tap-in fees because of inflation.

“Everyone is raising their rates as well because it just doesn’t cover the cost anymore,” Vallad said. “Citizens are now helping pay for a household’s fee and that’s not how it’s supposed to be.”

Council Member Charlie Walters was the lone dissenting vote in the 4-1 decision to increase the sewer rate.

The increase is to offset $50,000 the city had budgeted to receive from Dean Food’s Liberty Dairy because they were only in Evart for half of the year, Vallad said.

“On the average user who uses 5,000 gallons per month, their bill will go up about $2,” Vallad said. “If their water is shut off when they go on vacation, there is no increase. It’s 47 cents per thousand gallons. Whoever uses the most is going to pay the most. It’s what we had planned to do all along with Dean’s leaving.”