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Wastewater rates for city reviewed by officials for 2011 budget

WILLMAR -- Members of the Willmar City Council's Finance Committee are continuing their review of the mayor's proposed 2011 budget.

As part of their budget review, committee members have been looking at various budget accounts during the past several meetings leading up to council approval of the budget in December.

On Monday, the committee focused on the wastewater treatment plant budget, which accounts for 33.4 percent of the mayor's $25.6 million budget.

The new $86.2 million wastewater treatment and conveyance system is the largest infrastructure project in the city's history, said Steve Okins, finance director.

He said wastewater treatment is run like a business with rates paying the operating costs.

The system serves Willmar and the Eagle Lake Sewer District.

The current four-year rate structure was established in an ordinance approved by the council on Feb. 6, 2009.

The ordinance set residential, commercial/industrial and Eagle Lake rates from 2009 through 2012.

Average residential rates will increase from $24.42 in 2009 to $43.39 in 2012 unless the council changes the ordinance, according to Okins.

The rates were based on an analysis by the city's financial consultant Springsted and wastewater project engineers Donohue and Associates.

The consultants looked at proposed operating costs and debt payments and came up with projected rates that will provide one year of debt service and six months of operating revenue, said Okins.

City staff did not recommend any changes in the rates or the ordinance. Okins and City Administrator Michael Schmit recommended no action be taken on rates until final debt numbers to finance the project and six months of operating costs are determined.

In other business, the committee has allowed time at the beginning of each meeting for members of the public to offer comments about the budget. No written, oral or e-mail comments were presented or received.

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