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Residents to pay more for water usage

Water, sewer consumption rates to rise July 1, bigger jump coming next year

NORTH LIBERTY– The river is not the only thing on the rise.
North Liberty residents will likely see their water and sewer rates increase beginning July 1.
Last Tuesday, May 28, the North Liberty City Council approved the first reading of ordinance amendments to increase the rates people pay on their water and sewer usage.
Proposed is an eight percent increase on water consumption charges. The resulting change on individual water bills will vary depending on how much water is used. On top of the base charge, the current rate per 1,000 gallons used is $4.79, and the eight percent increase would take it to $5.17. An average residential user consumes between 3,000 and 5,000 gallons, so a typical customer will pay approximately 76¢ to $1.52 more each month for water.
“For the average user, it’s about a two to two-and-a-half percent increase on user fees,” said city administrator Ryan Heiar. “There is no increase on the base rate.” The base rate is a flat fee paid for the first 1,000 gallons used, and will remain at $12.81.
Since the city’s sewer rate is tied to consumer use, the sewer rate increase will also have varying impacts on different households.
The sewer rate on consumption after the first 1,000 gallons will go from $4.04 per 1,000 gallons to $4.24, about a five percent increase. For the typical consumer using 3,000 to 5,000 gallons per month, it’s a 40¢ to 80¢ hike in the monthly sewer bill. The base rate for the first 1,000 gallons used would stay at $23.57.

Rates expected to increase again
While this year’s increase is not considered a large one, council member Gerry Kuhl pointed out that more significant increases are anticipated soon; on Heiar’s budget projections, the administrator indicates as much as a 15 percent increase in both water and sewer rates in upcoming fiscal years.
“Those are substantial (increases), especially for someone like me on a fixed income,” Kuhl said.
Heiar reminded the council that Fox Engineering has completed a study of the city’s existing water and wastewater facilities, and their report suggests both will need sizeable improvements within the next few years to keep up with the community’s burgeoning population. Potential water projects, which would likely be done in phases, include extending a water main on the west side of town, replacing aging water mains, repainting an existing water tower and adding a new one, constructing a new water plant and digging a new Jordan well.
For sewer improvements, the biggest anticipated project would be expanding the wastewater facility, estimated to cost $15.3 million in today’s dollars.
Council member Terry Donahue said he could understand increasing water rates to prepare for a new facility, but the potential wastewater facility expansion “scares me to death,” he said.
Kuhl voted against both increases, and Donahue joined him in voting against the sewer rate hike. With the remaining three councilors in favor, the first reading passed. The ordinance amendment will go through two more public hearings and readings in June.
Fox Engineering is expected to present their report on the water and wastewater facilities study to the council this month, Heiar said.