The Monette City Council held a lengthy meeting on Monday evening, July 22, discussing water and sewer rate increases and equalization of billing.
After an extensive water and sewer rate review, the council declared an emergency and passed two ordinances on third readings. These included Ordinance #2010-2, increasing water rates, and Ordinance #2010-3, increasing sewer rates.
Ordinance #2010-2 stated that additional revenues were necessary in order to maintain the present water system, retirement of debts, and provide a reserve for improvements. The present rate does not provide sufficient income to meet the obligations of the Monette municipality with regard to its water system.
Rate increases will include $15 fee for first 2,000 gallons of water and $2 for each 1,000 gallon thereafter. This is effective with the August reading and the September bill.
Effective Jan. 1, 2012 the rate will increase to $17.25 for first 2,000 gallons and $2.30 for each additional 1,000 gallons.
Effective Jan. 1, 2013 the rate will increase to $18.98 for first 2,000 gallons, and $2.53 for each additional 1,000 gallons.
Effective Jan. 1, 2014 the rate will be $20.40 for first 2,000 gallons and $2.72 for each 1,000 gallons thereafter.
Effective Jan. 1, 2015 the rate will be $21.93 for first 2,000 gallons and $2.92 for each 1,000 gallons thereafter.
Water deposits will increase to $100 effective immediately, to $125 as of Jan. 1, 2013, to $150 by Jan. 1, 2015.
Ordinance #2012-3 read that additional revenues are necessary in order to maintain the present sewer system, retirement of debts, and provide a reserve for improvements. Present rates do not provide sufficient income to meet the obligations of the Monette municipality with regard to its sewer system.
Effective immediately a minimum of $19 will be charged based on the first 2,000 gallons of water, and after 2,000 gallons the rate will be $2.30 per 1,000 gallons.
Effective Jan. 1, 2012 the rate will be $21.85 for first 2,000 gallons, and $2.30 for each 2,000 gallons thereafter.
Effective Jan. 1, 2013 the rate will be $24.04 for first 2,000 gallons, and $2.53 for each 1,000 gallons thereafter.
Effective Jan. 1, 2014, the rate will be $25.84 for first 2,000 gallons and $2.72 each 1,000 gallons thereafter.
Effective Jan. 2, 2015 the rate will be $27.78 for first 2,000 and $2.92 for each 1,000 gallons thereafter.
Reports showed that many customers were delinquent as much as 61 days on payment of their utilities, amounting to hundreds of dollars. Collections will be made as stated on the back of each bill from now own. Notices will be mailed with instructions for full payment and time frame. The current bill plus one third of past due bull will be required each month, with a 90 day grace period. This will be processed to achieve a zero balance by Nov. 1. The bills are due each month by the 15th and cut-offs will occur on the 20th.
Citations will be issued for past due sanitation fees and will be turned over to City Attorney Johnny Dunigan to review for collection.
"If the department had been run like it should have been we wouldn't be in this situation," Alderman Bob Blankenship said.
"I know this will be a hardship, or the people would not be there in the first place," Alderman Bill Watson said.
"Something has to be done," Mayor Chub Qualls said. "We can do this in five years with hopes of being solvent."
Alderman Perry Woods addressed the situation of inconsistent payments made for city services, including water, sewer and sanitation.
"We have three entities that have a flat rate, and it is only fair that everyone pays for what they actually use," Woods said. "These include BIC School, Monette Housing Authority and Christopher Homes. Some of these rates are not on our scheme of rates. If a dumpster is emptied once a month, once every week or two times a week, then customers should pay for that.
"In 2001 the Monette Housing Authority requested help in budgeting their 49 units at a base rate, which was based on 2,000 average gallons usage per unit," Woods said. "That was once 98,000 gallons and now they are using 132,200 gallons. They are using more than the base rate. No one should get special treatment. We are not depriving anyone, just asking them to pay for what is used. This is water lost."
"A base rate for anyone does not give them the incentive to conserve their usage," Woods said. "There is no deterrent whatsoever in this.
"Some of these three started out having trash cans at central pick-up areas, and now they have them all over. If they have 50 cans then they need to pay for 50 cans to be picked up. Senior citizens all over town should be treated equal, with no special treatment. We should be fair to all and simply pay for what is used."
"The water has not changed at the school for 20 years," Woods said. "There is no gentlemen's agreement that their water is paid in full. Everyone pays for what they use, no special fees."
"We are insolvent, and we have allowed these things to go on," Woods said. "By September all rates should be the same. This applies to everyone. Garbage pick up needs to be the same also."
"Everyone needs to be notified that they are all on the same page," Alderman Bob Blankenship said.
"We have all been asked why we are raising rates and not cutting spending," Woods said. "When we look at our losses then we can no longer subscribe to the old way of doing things. Everyone else is subsidizing the others, and that is not fair. All customers should pay for what they use, water, sewer and sanitation, with no special deals."
The council unanimously passed the motion made by Woods to equalize billing.
"I appreciate your doing this," Mayor Qualls said. "I had no idea that people were not paying for things equally."
The council voted to reimplement department commissioners. These included Water and Sewer Commissioner Tom Carroll, Sanitation Commissioner Perry Wood, Emergency Services Commissioner Bob Blankenship, Parks and Recreation Billy Watson, City Beautification Joyce Read, and Street Commissioner Dick Pace. The Oversight Committee is Dick Pace and Joyce Read. The city mayor will still be in charge of day-to-day operations and will remain the ultimate authority.
The council discussed use of golf carts inside the city limits. State law currently forbids it. The council is looking into ways to allow such usage for physically impaired residents and report back with more information.
"I have never seen anyone on golf carts showing out at any time and would like to see us work something out," Qualls said. "We are not getting after anyone at this time over usage."
The Buffalo Island Museum roof condition was discussed.
"We have a leak and a problem," Mayor Qualls said. "The museum committee has over $4,000 in their account and we have hopes of getting a $5,000 grant. We could come up with $10,000 to do repair, but it would cost $33,500 to remove the current roof and replace it."
"A metal roof with a standing seam would be the best," Alderman Wood said. "The $10,000 would just be a temporary fix, and I'm not sure it would work. No one likes tar roofs."
"We (the city) sold the building and our own tar machine to the Masons originally," Alderman Tom Carroll said. "We knew there was a problem, and that is why we sold it. If we repair it now and it cracks, it could get inside and we won't know where the leak is coming from."
The issue was tabled until more information could be obtained.
Concerns about risk involved for continued use of batting cage at the city ballpark.
"It is dangerous to store equipment in the cages, where kids go in to retrieve it when someone is warming up," Watson said. "The coaches should not let the kids put their equipment in the batting cage, as it is now."
Mayor Qualls agreed to look into additional fencing to take care of risk.
The next regular scheduled council meeting will be 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 23, at city hall.