Back

Sewer service fees to increase beginning in February
December 20, 2018

Share

Members of the Dysart City Council on Wednesday voted to increase sewer service fees effective with utility bills due on February 15.

According to the amendment made to the city ordinance regarding sewer service fees (Chapter 28, section 28-305), a minimum fee of $5.89 per month will remain the same, but the additional sewer fee figured by the customer's water service usage will increase from 40 percent to 55 percent of the water charge. Section two states "rates adopted in this ordinance shall become effective with the utility billing that will be due and payable on February 15, 2019."

"We don't want to alarm residents, but additional changes to their sewer rates are going to have to happen in the coming years," Mayor Pam Thiele said. "What we did on Wednesday night was to increase our sewer rate a small amount to help pay for existing infrastructure repairs and the initial costs of upgrading our wastewater facility. We considered several different percentage increases and the council decided to go with a 15 percent sewer rate increase. For the average customer this will add approximately $3.32 a month to their bill"

According to Thiele, this increase is needed to help the sewer fund for a system built in the 1920s.

"We have had numerous repairs the past several years and the sewer fund has not been able to keep up with expenses," Thiele said. Our sewer system is old and the many pipes running throughout the town are aging. When there are sewer problems that are on city property, we have to pay to repair them. Those repairs have been running more than what we've taken in with sewer revenues."

Raising rates also allows the City to add a small cushion to absorb early costs for upgrades to the wastewater lagoon facility. Dysart has been mandated by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to make upgrades to their wastewater facility and have been given a timeline to complete this project. The first step that was recently completed, was a study to determine the plan for updates for Dysart's facility. The facility plan cost just over $30,000 and came out of the sewer fund.

"This unfortunately won't be the only rate increase residents will be seeing in the coming years in regards to their sewer charges," Thiele said. "We're looking at a four to five million dollar upgrade to the wastewater facility and we have to be able to pay for that somehow. Revenue bonds will be issued and the yearly debt payments will then paid back from patrons using the system. We'll also look to see if there are grants available to help with this large project. Our financial consultants and bond attorneys will assist the city in setting up the project repayment schedule, most likely a 20 year repayment. We will have firm numbers for the additional rate increases closer to when the new facility is operational."

Dysart's sewer system is underground and can develop problems over time, Thiele state. For older parts of town, the sewer system is approaching 100 years old and in need of continually repair.

"In addition, this costly upgrade to the lagoon facility is an unfortunate monetary amount to fund, but it's being mandated by the DNR and we have no choice but to proceed," Thiele said. "Communities across the state are in the same situation"

The upgrades are being mandated to reduce ammonia nitrate levels across Iowa. Thiele feels that little change will be noticed by the just over 600 hookups in Dysart once the new facility is operational but repairs may not be as frequent out at the lagoon in the initial years. "Residents, myself included, take for granted that we can flush a toilet and let the dishwater down the drain. It goes into a City system to be taken care of. We're finding it is very expensive to upgrade the lagoon to comply with the DNR mandates," Thiele said. "Little change will be seen or fully enjoyed by the high price tag of the new lagoon system but it's a necessary part of community life."

Future updates on the wastewater facility will be provided at council meetings. Check back with The Dysart Reporter for further updates as made available.

Share

Regular Size Dysart Reporter