Evart residents see increase in utilities

Penalties and late fees reinstated

The Evart city council approved utility rate increases and reinstatement of late fees and penalties during it meeting earlier this month. Herald Review file photo)

The Evart city council approved utility rate increases and reinstatement of late fees and penalties during it meeting earlier this month. Herald Review file photo)

EVART — Evart residents will see an increase in their utility bills this year, as well as in subsequent years.

During a recent meeting, the Evart city council approved a resolution for utility rate increases effective in August.

Evart finance director and treasurer Pepper Lockhart told the board that the rate increases were recommended by Baker Tilley, based on their analysis of the city’s water and sewer rate system.

“They recommended we continue a 3.5% annual increase for water and a 2% annual increase for sewer in order to keep the fund balances healthy,” Lockhart said. “The only other option is to make significant increases every few years.”

Lockhart said that according to the rate study, Evart is in a higher tier on sewer rates but low on water rates, as compared to other municipalities.

Council member Don Elliott said the city needs to consistently bring enough revenue to maintain the water and sewer systems and expand them, if needed.

“The rate study was specific to Evart, and I think we should follow that advice,” he told the council.

When questioned about the need for the large water and sewer fund reserves, city manager Sarah Dvoracek explained that it was necessary because those funds “will take a serious hit this year due to water meter replacements and lead service line replacements, which are state mandated.”

The current rate for water is $4.82 per 1000 gallons and the current rate for sewer is $9.74 per 1,000 gallons. The new rates will be $4.99 per 1,000 gallons for water and $9.93 per 1,000 gallons for sewer usage.

The ready to use fee will also increase from $6.50 to $6.73 monthly and the fire protection availability charge will increase from $2.86 to $2.96 per month. The multi-family unit charge will also increase from $6.50 to $6.73 per month.

The increase in utility cost for a family of four using 7,500 gallons per month will be around $2.94.

The resolution passed by a vote of 3-2, with council members Matt Hildebrand and Sean Duffey voting "no."

During public comment, resident Vanessa Jones thanked those who voted against the resolution stating that she believes the rates are already too high and residents are angry about it.

“Evart has many seniors and disabled residents on fixed incomes that cannot easily absorb these increases,” Jones said.

PENALTIES AND LATE FEES REINSTATED

In other business, the council approved a resolution to reinstate penalties and late fees for past due utility bill payments.

In April 2020, the council approved temporarily waiving the late fees and penalties on all utility bills because city staff was working remotely.

“Late fees and penalties had been waived during the pandemic, as staff was unable to process mail in a timely manner,” Lockhart said. “The office is now operating normally. We process bills on a daily basis and there is no longer a delay in processing. Since these fees are part of the new budget, I recommend reinstating them.”

The council voted unanimously to reinstate the penalties and late fees.