Spring Lake Park council will review sewer, water rates

The Spring Lake Park City Council has set a mid-April workshop to review a sewer and water rate report prepared by the city’s engineer.

City leaders will meet Thursday, April 12 with City Administrator Barbara Nelson to review the study.

Prior to a March 5 council meeting discussion of a potential workshop date, City Engineer Phil Gravel reviewed the utility information with Nelson, Public Works Director Terry Randall and Nancy Kelm, the city’s utility billing clerk.

In a memo, Gravel stated a final report was scheduled for completion and submittal to the city this month.

“We’ve got the information pretty much completed,” Gravel said March 5.

In December 2011, councilmembers learned that the city’s 2012 public utilities budget would have a record revenue shortfall of almost $65,000.

According to Nelson, the cost of purchasing services and materials used to maintain city water and sewer systems continues to rise.

The 2012 utilities budget includes a water and sewer department shortfall of $55,106 and a water treatment plant loss of $9,325.

Nelson said in December that the city revenue shortages are a direct result of declining collections involving foreclosed homes and delinquencies due to a continued bad economy.

Additionally revenues have been affected by mandated conservation rates that were made effective last year and six commercial buildings being vacant or at partial occupancy.

According to Nelson, the city has approximately 500 accounts with senior or handicapped discounts. Residents receive their first 9,000 gallons of water free.

Two years ago, the council unanimously approved an ordinance requiring all utility billings be carried in a property owner’s name.

According to Nelson, that ordinance change was prompted by a continued, significant increase in rental properties as well as a large number of delinquent bills being handled by Kelm.

The city’s last sewer and water rate study was completed in 2009, Nelson said earlier this week.

The estimated cost of the current study would  not exceed $5,000, Nelson said.

Once the April 12 workshop is completed, Nelson said city leaders could conduct another workshop to further review the water and sewer rates or adopt them at a regular meeting.

Tim Hennagir is at tim.hennagir@ecm-inc.com