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Council considers changes in wastewater treatment rates

Monday, November 12, 2012

Editor's note: This is the second of two stories on city of Le Mars plans to build a new wastewater treatment facility in Le Mars and the impact of the project on sewer users.

Starting next year, the two largest users of wastewater treatment in Le Mars would be billed each month for construction of a new wastewater treatment facility.

The proposal is part of sewer user rate changes the Le Mars City Council is considering as the city moves forward on a new industrial wastewater treatment facility 2 miles west of Le Mars.

The new industrial wastewater treatment facility and improvements at the existing treatment facility are estimated to cost $16.9 million to $20 million.

As proposed by city consultant Bolton and Menk, of Ames, the typical monthly bill paid by Wells Enterprises would increase 63 percent and Dean Foods would pay a 47 percent increase.

The large percentage increases are based on a change proposed in the way the city bills the industrial customers

Under the new proposal, the rates for Wells and Dean Foods would be based on three parts to billing.

The users fees would include a wastewater treatment use; a monthly fee to pay for the cost of the new treatment facility; and operations and maintenance of the new and existing plant, according to Le Mars City Administrator Scott Langel.

"To pay for the capital cost of the new industrial plant, there would be a capital charge of $62,300 a month for Wells Enterprises and $16,600 for Dean Foods over 20 years," Langel said.

The two industries have a draft of an agreement for the new capital cost charges and have been asked to return the documents with any review comments by the middle of this month, he said.

The other change in rates asks Wells and Dean Foods to contribute to the operations and maintenance of the new industrial plant on a monthly basis as well as a portion of the normal upgrades at the existing wastewater treatment plant in Le Mars, Langel said.

Councilman Ken Nelson is one of two councilmen serving on the city's wastewater committee.

Nelson said the key point in the proposal is the city is changing the methodology of the sewer user rates.

"For example, if one of the industries would close, the users of the rest of the sewer (users) wouldn't be stuck with additional costs for the capital improvements we made," Nelson said.

Councilmen John Rexwinkel is the other wastewater committee member from the council and said the rate changes are based on the type of customer.

"If we upgrade the existing wastewater plant, the industrial users will pay their share as well as the residential customers and the industrial facility west of Le Mars will be the industries' cost," Rexwinkel said.

Langel said not all the industrial waste would be treated at the new treatment facility.

"We're splitting the wastewater treatment flow and some of the industrial waste will continue to go to the existing treatment facility," he said.

Industrial customers are not the only sewer users to pay new rates under the proposal being discussed by the city council.

The typical monthly bill for the average residential customer would increase 10 percent, based on the Bolton and Menk sewer user proposal.

"The current residential rate of $18.71 would increase to $20.50," Langel said.

The rates discussed by the city council last week will be considered again at the next regular council meeting which is at noon Nov. 20. Other regular meetings where the rates will be on the council agenda include noon meetings on Dec. 4 and Dec. 18.

The proposed effective date of the rate changes is January 1, 2013.

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