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Officials proposing reduction to Eagle Lake sewer rates for this year, 2012

WILLMAR -- Users of the Eagle Lake Sanitary Sewer District would see a reduction in their sewer rates for 2011 and 2012 under an agreement recently negotiated by sewer district and Willmar city officials.

Officials negotiated the reductions after the sewer district disagreed with 2011 and 2012 rates established by the city and charged to the district for treating the district's wastewater.

The reductions will be considered by the City Council on Nov. 7 during the regular council meeting.

Under a 2009 consultant's study, the council set rates for Willmar and Eagle Lake users through 2012 based on the new wastewater treatment system. Eagle Lake's rates were set at $44.36 for 2011 and $53.87 for 2012.

The Eagle Lake Sanitary Sewer Commission disagreed in 2010 with how the 2011 and 2012 rates were established under the 1971 agreement, said Charlene Stevens, city administrator.

Discussions took place between city and district officials and resulted in agreement this past May to reduce Eagle Lake rates to $40.73 in 2011 and $48.76 in 2012.

The sewer district was established by the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners on Nov. 5, 1969. Collection facilities were constructed around Eagle Lake and an agreement was signed by county and city officials on Aug. 15, 1971, that allows sewage generated from the district into the city's sanitary sewer treatment system.

The agreement established a rate structure under which Eagle Lake users pay for using Willmar's sewer system. The rates are collected by Kandiyohi County and paid to the city.

Eagle Lake officials contended that the rate increases set by the 2009 consultant's study were greater than the rate increases paid by city users.

The district cited a section of the 1971 agreement that states: "In the event the rates for residential and/or commercial sewage use in the City of Willmar should be changed from time to time during the term of this contract, the rates charged within the Eagle Lake Sanitary Sewer District shall be changed at the same amount as the change within the City of Willmar, for respective use.''

City Public Works Director Holly Wilson said the language is unclear whether it refers to a dollar amount increase or percentage increase.

"It's not clear what the rate change is referring to,'' she said.

Wilson said she will recommend the language be clarified if the 45-year-old agreement is renewed in 2016.

Also, she recommends Eagle Lake be involved when the city undertakes a new rate study in 2012 to make sure the district is aware of what new rates will be when rates change again.

In the meantime, the Eagle Lake District has withheld its payment for 2011 over the rate disagreement, according to district secretary Rosella Ericson. If the City Council approves the reduced rates, the district will release its funds, she said.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150