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Council wants the numbers on water meter option

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A new suggestion for water billing in Le Mars will be put to a financial test by city staff and possibly the city water consultant.

Le Mars City Council members asked for the financial information during a meeting Tuesday after hearing a suggestion from Pat Kenaley, of Le Mars.

Water customers would have one water meter instead of a second meter measuring water use which isn't counted for sewer billing, he explained.

The sewer usage charge would be based on an average of the water use in January-March.

He said Sioux City and Dakota Dunes, S.D., use the billing system he described to the council.

Kenaley's proposal is based on his experience living in five states and about 10 communities, he said.

Kenaley spoke to the council during a discussion of changes in the city's water rate regulations, which would also discontinue private meters for outside water use.

All meters in Le Mars would be city-owned.

Those customers who choose a second meter for lawn irrigation or other outside water will be asked to pay for the second meter.

However, the meter would be city-owned and maintained.

Kenaley described the one meter system he was suggesting as simple and one which would save the expense of second water meters.

Information about the impact of Kenaley's suggestion will be presented at the next council meeting which is Jan. 3, 2012.

The city plans to replace all meters over the next three years to assure accurate readings and allow automated meter readings.

Each new meter is estimated to cost $240.

There are currently 1,099 private water meters for outside watering.

Councilman Rex Knapp said he expects only 200-250 customers will ask for meters for outside watering when the three-year meter replacement project is completed.

"I don't think people are going to get hardly any benefit; they probably don't now but they've got it (a private meter) installed or even some people have it and didn't know they had it," Knapp said.

Knapp also compared minimum monthly water bills in the area to Le Mars' rates.

The minimum water bill is $17 in Sioux City, $20 in Sioux Center and in the high teens in South Sioux City Neb.,, he said.

"Our minimum monthly water bill is $12," Knapp said. "We've kept our bills really low."

City Administrator Scott Langel asked whether a one-meter system, with an estimate for sewer billing as Kenaley suggested, would impact sewer revenue.

"What shift in revenue might that cause for our sewer utility?" Langel asked.

Knapp said he was opposed to an estimation for sewer billing.

Assistant City Administrator Bill Cole also had a concern about the one meter proposal.

"I'm afraid it's going to hurt the sewer revenue, that we're going to have to look at a larger rate increase on sewer than we otherwise would," Cole said.

In discussing the private or outside water meter issue, Mayor Dick Kirchoff encouraged Le Mars residents to get specific figures from their water and sewer bills by contacting billing staff at city hall.

He explained they could making comparisons about the use of two water meters versus one.

"In my case, I only can save $57 a year between going to a second meter and not," Kirchoff said. "Needless to say, I am not going to spend $240 for a second meter."

The next council meeting, Jan. 3, would be the third, and possibly, the final consideration of the water rate increase of 5 percent for each of the next three years and a move to all city-owned water meters.

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HUH???????????? For all those years that the city charged people for watering their lawns at the same rate as personal use in the home, if they didn't have a second meter, they are now saying the city doesn't want to get screwed out of dollars to be fair in what's sewer use or lawn use. To me the picture is perfectly clear. The city is saying we are getting rid of the second meter so we can charge the residents more or charge you more upfront on a second meter that most already own.

"What shift in revenue might that cause for our sewer utility?" Langel asked and "I'm afraid it's going to hurt the sewer revenue, that we're going to have to look at a larger rate increase on sewer than we otherwise would," Cole said.

See the word revenue in both statements. Fellas, a news flash for you. If it's being used on lawns, gardens, and the like, it's not going down the sewer any way.

-- Posted by economics101 on Wed, Dec 21, 2011, at 1:24 PM

Only thing I can see that's being flushed down the toilet is our money in Le Mars.

-- Posted by economics101 on Wed, Dec 21, 2011, at 1:55 PM

It appears the council finally has a practical and (dare I say it) logical solution to the private meter issue. I just finished running the numbers based on my personal 2011 water/sewer bills. If I had been charged during the months I had private meter use at the average sewer rate for the months of January-March, the difference in my bill would have been a whopping $0.99. It's a good solution, council. Let's make some sense in this decision.

P.S. Mr Mayor, you must have one of those meters that isn't working properly. I didn't run my sprinklers very often in 2011, and I still had private meter credits of $156.

-- Posted by octobergal on Thu, Dec 22, 2011, at 10:11 PM

I don't remember seeing economics101 on the ballot when I voted last time. If you could be a councilman from your computer then you probably would have run.

-- Posted by WOW! on Fri, Dec 23, 2011, at 5:19 PM

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