Evart council raises water rates by 3 percent

New rate implemented for February billing; sewer rates stay the same

EVART — After much discussion, members of the Evart City Council passed a 3 percent increase to water rates with a 4-1 vote at the Feb. 1 council meeting.

The topic had been discussed and tabled at the Jan. 19 meeting, as council members were unable to come to an agreement without further data from the Evart Water Committee regarding how much of a fee increase was needed. Discussion surrounded the lack of revenue in the sewer and water fund due to decreases in usage from Ventra and Ice Mountain.

Ventra's reduction totals a loss of about $400,000 a year for the city, while Ice Mountain's reduction creates a loss of more than $200,000.

On Feb. 1, council member Dan Elliot once again encouraged the council to increase rates by 10 percent for at least two years to make up for the loss in the water and sewer funds and to create a safe buffer of money in case an emergency occurs. Anything less than 10 percent will not help the city recover from the revenue loss, he said.

Council members Gregg Sherman and BJ Foster said they believe a 3 percent increase is a good start to repairing the issue. Rates can always be revisited at a later date if necessary, Sherman said, adding at the moment he believes a small increase is the right and responsible thing to do for the community.

Evart Mayor Casey Keysor joined the conversation, saying Ice Mountain may drill a new well in the near future, which will increase the company's water usage and help bring revenue up once more.

At the end of discussion, a 3 percent increase was approved, with only Elliot opposed. The rate will be implemented in time to appear on the February bill.

With the new increase, water rates will only jump seven cents to $2.37 per thousand gallons. Sewer rates will remain the same at $6.67 per thousand gallons.

Elliot believes the decision was short-sighted on the council's part.

"I'm more concerned the small increase is going to build confidence that this is all we need to do," Elliot said. "We need to get a handle on the losses we've got. We're losing a third of our revenue every year from Ice Mountain and we can't sustain that. The trend should always be up and at this rate we're not covering operation and maintenance."

He said although sewer revenue is increasing, the city does not have enough money to cover an emergency.

"Do I like raising rates? Of course not," Elliot added. "But you have to do something to get something else done."

Keysor believes the 3 percent increase was good enough, at least for the time being, and strategic on the city's part.

"We want to remain business-friendly too," he said. "We have a lot of vacant buildings in town. If we raise rates by 10 percent, who's to say businesses or residents will want to come to Evart? We're trying to do our best to be responsible. We need to keep our rates attractive to attract other users and keep people here. It's not going to fix a deficit, but it's a step in the right direction."

In other business, council members approved a motion to allow Ice Mountain to administer sonic boring tests at sites on 7 Mile Road and near the northern water tower. There will be no cost to the city and testing is for a potential new well. Ice Mountain will provide results of the test to the city.