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New London utility rates expected to jump to help fund project

NEW LONDON -- On top of the expected $835,000 in assessments needed to pay for a $3.5 million street and utility project planned for this summer, New London residents should also expect an increase in water and sewer rates that will also help pay for the project.

A public hearing on the construction project is scheduled to be held at 5:45 p.m. Feb. 2 at the New London Fire Hall. A public hearing on the proposed utility rates begins at 6:30 p.m. that same day.

Open houses to see details and provide input on the street and utility projects will be held prior to that, from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday and again Jan. 31 at the fire hall.

A majority of the construction project is to repair old sewer lines that are leaking and costing the city thousands of dollars every year.

The city pays the Green Lake Sanitary Sewer and Water District to treat municipal wastewater, which is billed back to residents based on metered usage at each home and business.

But the groundwater that seeps into cracked sewer lines is also treated at the Green Lake Sanitary Sewer and Water District facility.

The cost of treating that extra sewage is paid from the city's utility fund.

In 2010 the city spent $125,000 to treat groundwater that seeped into old sewer lines.

It's hoped that repairing the lines will reduce that inflow and infiltration and city expenses.

The construction project includes 18 blocks of sewer line construction, 14 blocks of re-lining existing sewer lines and 15 blocks of reconstructing water mains.

After the work is completed, there should be no clay utility tiles remaining in the city, said City Administrator Trudie Guptill.

A number of streets will also be resurfaced as part of the project.

The work, scattered throughout the city, will affect 225 properties -- about half the city's residents.

The individual assessments range from $600 to $12,000 "depending on what we're doing in front of their house," Guptill said.

Besides the $835,000 in assessments, the city will sell bonds for $400,000 and take out a low-interest loan from the state Public Facilities Authority.

An increase in water and sewer rates is expected to be implemented to help make bond payments.

At its meeting Wednesday, the New London City Council reviewed several options, including a "break-even" proposal to raise the rates by a total of $3.10 -- that total increase spread between the sewer and water rates.

Residents currently pay $9.80 per thousand gallons for sewer and $4.15 per thousand gallons of water.

A recent report said the city's loss of water in its municipal drinking water system is below 20 percent, which is in the normal range.

In other action:

- Saying it was too invasive, the City Council turned down a request by the county's Public Health Department to institute a smoking ban in the city parks.

- In preparation for the town's 150th birthday in 2015, the council designated $5,000 from the city fund balance for the celebration.

- A contract with the Hawk Creek Animal Shelter in Willmar was approved.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750