Water meter study on tap for ’09 | SteamboatToday.com

Water meter study on tap for ’09

Oak Creek Town Board approves $5,000 for consulting

Melinda Dudley

Oak Creek will take a harder look at when and how water meters could be installed for its water customers early next year and what the long-awaited project would cost.

The Oak Creek Town Board tentatively agreed to budget $5,000 next year for introductory consulting costs on a water meter installation project, including taking an all-important look for non-matching grant funds to pay for such an undertaking.

Residents who attended Thursday’s work session shared their serious displeasure with proposed utility rate hikes, calling the increases particularly ill-timed given the faltering economy and with Christmas and utility-intensive winter right around the corner.

Ultimately, however, attendees seemed to understand the Town Board’s insistence that the rates increases are unavoidable.

The proposed increases for 2009 would increase a residential customer’s combined water-sewer bill about 50 percent, from $55 to $83 a month, and boost trash bills by $3 a customer, to $20 a month. Electric charges would go up about 10 percent.

The recommended rate hikes have nothing to do with the proposal to install water meters, they are simply to keep the water and sewer plants operating with required certified operators, to build the needed reserves for maintenance, Trustee Chuck Wisecup said.

Recommended Stories For You

“Even if we all had water meters today, you would still be looking at a painful increase,” Trustee Wendy Gustafson said.

Town officials also shared their sympathy with residents, noting that increases should have been phased in throughout the years instead of doing substantial hikes all at once. Customer rates have not gone up to cover the costs of providing service – the town has been eating 50 cents per customer each month on trash bills since August.

“You guys haven’t had to pay the increased costs of running the town over the past seven years,” Gustafson said. “I realize it’s not the best situation.”

“It’s all happening at a bad time, but our choice : unfortunately is pay this or shut the water off,” Trustee Dave Ege said.

Wholesale prices for the water meter units range from $337 for a typical residence, to as much as $700 for some of the commercial customers on a larger water line. Installation costs would vary, depending on whether the meter was installed indoors or buried in a pit. Questions about who would pay what portion of the project’s costs were unresolved Thursday.

Other potential quagmires discussed at Thursday’s work session included questions about where to install meters for multiple out-of-town customers who spur off a single line leaving town, and how to handle future bills for residents who have to keep their tap running in the winter to prevent the town’s nearby main from freezing – not just the pipes on their property.

The last time the Town Board took a serious look at water meters, in 2005, installation was estimated to be a $523,000, multi-year project.

Ultimately, the conservation efforts that meters would supposedly encourage could decrease the base operating costs for the entire water-sewer infrastructure in Oak Creek, Trustee David Fisher said.

– To reach Melinda Dudley, call 871-4203

or e-mail mdudley@steamboatpilot.com

At a glance

– Electric

Current: $0.085 per kilowatt-hour, with an $8 minimum monthly bill

Proposed: Replace minimum monthly bill with a $6.50 customer charge to cover overhead; increase rates 10 percent in January 2009 to $0.0935 per kilowatt-hour, and another 5.7 percent in January 2010 to $0.0988 per kilowatt-hour

– Trash (residential customers only)

Current: $17 a month

Proposed: $20 a month

– Water

Current: $27 a month for residential customers

Proposed: $41 a month for residential customers; $20 reduced rate for senior citizens; $61 for general businesses and restaurants without bars; $92 for grocery stores, motels day cares, and restaurants with bars; $114 for the community center; $1,125 for the Soroco school campus; $137 for the laundromat/car wash; $760 for the cemetery; and $82 for out-of-town residences, unless water meters installed at town limits by June 30; increases to begin January 1

– Sewer

Current: $28 a month for residential customers

Proposed: $42 a month for residential customers; $87 for restaurants, bars, grocery stores and food service establishments; $57 for general businesses; $84 for motels, day cares and the community center; $113 for laundromat/car wash; $450 for the Soroco school campus; and $84 for out-of-town residences; increases to begin April 1