December 5, 2019

City votes split on utility rates - Daily Leader Extra : Top Stories

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City votes split on utility rates

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Posted: Wednesday, November 6, 2019 4:00 pm | Updated: 3:10 pm, Fri Nov 15, 2019.

Madison City Commissioners heard the first readings of resolutions on Monday that would increase certain payments for city-provided utilities in 2020, including electricity, water and wastewater connections.

There was disagreement among the mayor and city commissioners about whether Madison should move ahead with utility rate increases. Commissioners Jeremiah Corbin, Kelly Johnson and Mike Waldner approved the first readings, and Mayor Marshall Dennert and Commissioner Bob Thill voted nay.

The commissioners will hear the second readings for the utility rate changes on Nov. 18 and consider approving the 2020 rates.

Regarding changes to the water rates, city officials are requesting that the monthly charges for four water-meter sizes increase. For 5/8-inch and 3/4-inch water meters, the monthly charge would increase by $2.50 to $22.08 per month. The monthly charges for 2-inch meters would increase by $2.58 to $173.61; for 3-inch meters by $14.07 to $392.51; and for 4-inch meters by $83.93 to $725.96.

The unit rate for drinkable water would remain the same at about $2.03 per hundred cubic feet with the same surcharge of about 54 cents per hundred cubic feet. Those charges are the same for all Madison customers.

The monthly charges issued to customers with extra meters will rise from $14 to $15.

Corbin, the city's utility commissioner, said city officials were "mindful of affordability" when they considered the water-related fees. Corbin said they reviewed the median income for the Madison community -- calculated at $50,400 -- and tried to keep water expenses at less than 1.5% of the average income amount.

George Lee, a Madison resident, pointed out to the commissioners that some Madison residents don't earn the community's median income of $50,400. Lee also asked how the city's water department would spend the money. Corbin replied that the city has expenses related to water-utility maintenance, infrastructure repairs and system upgrades.

Corbin also noted that if the city had to delay maintenance work, those costs could grow more expensive.

Lee argued that the water department should work with the "...current revenue taken in."

During a certain point in the discussion, Thill noted that many Madison residents were rebuilding after flooding hit the city and surrounding area in September. Thill said the residents having flood damage still didn't know if the federal government will provide any assistance. Thill argued for a delay in utility-rate increases.

Lee also criticized the city's priorities in purchasing the former East River maintenance building in 2018 and later purchasing the former Cars for Les property. The city bought and renovated the former East River building for use as a utilities-management facility at a cost of about $1.27 million. The Cars for Les property lies next to the renovated municipal-utilities building, a building that provides offices and shops for the electricity, water and wastewater utilities.

The mayor and commissioners voted 3-2 on the water-rate resolution.

Within the electricity rate resolution, city officials asked for a 1% increase across the board for residential, commercial and industrial customers.

Corbin noted that Madison's electricity rates "...had remained stable for five years."

Jennifer Eimers, city finance officer, later reported that the Madison Electric Department had not increased its electrical rates since 2017. In 2017, Madison's electricity rates were increased by 1%.

Brad Lawrence, municipal utility director, said the city has experienced increased transmission costs for the electricity that Madison receives.

The mayor and commissioners voted 3-2 on the electricity-rate resolution.

The commissioners also approved the wastewater-rate resolution with a 3-2 vote. The resolution proposes increases in monthly fixed fees. For residential customers, the monthly fees will increase by $2.50 to $22.50. For commercial and industrial customers, the monthly fees will increase by $5 to $45.

Also, all wastewater services, after the first service, that are connected to a master meter will have their fees increased from $14 to $15 per month per residence.

The volume fee paid per 100 cubic feet will remain the same at $4.01.

The mayor and commissioners gave their unanimous approval (a 5-0 vote) to the first reading of a resolution to increase certain drop-off fees at the restricted-use site.

The drop-off fees for passenger car tires would increase from $1.50 to $2 per tire. Light-truck tire fees would increase from $2.50 to $3 per tire, and semi-truck tire drop-offs would increase from $6.50 to $7 per tire. All tractor-tire fees would be set at $20 per tire. Previously, the tractor-tire fees ranged from $10.50 to $20.50 per tire.

Residents and commercial users of the restricted-use site would also see fee increases. For dropping off refuse and debris by pickup, the fees would increase from $15 to $18 per pickup load. If the refuse and debris is hauled by truck or trailer, the city will increase charges from $10 to $12 per cubic yard.

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