Evart City Council discusses need for additional water rate increase

EVART — Discussion regarding another increase to the city's water and sewer rates took place among city council members at a meeting on Jan. 19.

Water and sewer rates increased in 2014 following the drastic reduction in water usage by Ventra, which installed infrastructure upgrades to its water system and constructed cooling towers. The upgrades reduced the company's usage from 600 million gallons per year to between 25 and 75 million gallons per year, which meant a loss of about $400,000 a year for the city.

In 2014, water rates increased to $2.30 per thousand gallons, up from $1.09 per thousand gallons, and sewer rates increased to $6.67 per thousand gallons, up from $2.57 per thousand gallons.

According to the council, members of the Evart Water Committee are recommending a small increase of 3 or 4 percent.

However, council member Dan Elliot suggests the rates need to increase by 10 percent for at least two years to make up for the loss in the water and sewer funds and create a safe buffer of money in case an emergency occurs. He said he would like to see $1 million in each fund, and a raise as small as 3 or 4 percent is not going to begin erasing fund deficits.

Council members BJ Foster and Gregg Sherman disagreed with Elliot, stating the city needs more data before making a decision for such a large hike in prices, especially after the rates were just raised in 2014.

The issue was tabled until more information can be collected.

In more business, the council:

  • looked over a list of city goals for 2016, including a Department of Natural Resources grant for Riverside West, reducing city costs for services, address the need for a new or upgraded city hall building, and more;
  • approved the purchase of a new Ferric pump, which feeds bacteria-consuming chemicals into the city's sewage lagoon system. Evart City Manager Zack Szakacs said one pump can be used for spare parts, while the other must be decommissioned; and
  • approved a motion to implement a fee for use of a sewer camera when residents have issues with the utility and need assistance from the Department of Public Works. The fee will now be $100 for the first hour and $50 for every additional half hour.