Coon Rapids changes to approved sewer rates

The Coon Rapids City Council has changed one part of the new sewer rates it had put in place last month.

Under the approval, townhouses/quad homes and mobile homes were phased into a new rate system this year, which includes a flat fee to cover the fixed costs of maintaining the sewer system – lines and lift station – plus a consumption charge based on winter quarter use.

Previously, people living in those housing units had paid a base charge per quarterly billing.

The new rate system for townhouses/quads and mobile homes will be a $10.50 base charge for each unit plus $2.65 per 1,000 gallons; in 2011, the quarterly rate was a flat fee $45 a quarter for townhomes/condos and $48 a quarter for a mobile home.

But Mayor Tim Howe had opposed the new sewer rates -the council approved the rates on a 4-3 vote – because of the use of the winter quarter to measure customers’ consumption.

According to Howe, there are several residents who are “snowbirds,” not living in Coon Rapids over the winter thus not using the system and would not have to pay a consumption charge, Howe said.

The council directed staff to put in place a minimum consumption charge in the event there was no water usage in the winter quarter.

Finance Director Sharon Legg recommended a minimum fee of $30.37.

According to Legg, this would include 7,500 gallons of usage, which is the average usage for those presently getting the senior citizen rate for the classes of property moving toward the consumption method.

The $30.37 would include the $10.50 base charge plus consumption of $19.87, Legg said.

Legg also looked at which months should comprise the winter months billing cycle, she said.

The staff recommendation that the winter quarter for all three billing district in the city include the holiday period, which seems to have a higher consumption, to provide comparable winter quarters among the three districts, Legg said.

“And these are the months that are least likely to have watering done,” she said.

“Meter readings are gathered typically from the sixth of the month through the 10th.”

In unanimously approving the minimum rate for townhouse, detached townhome, quad home utility customers May 1, the council also gave the green light to the winter quarter billing cycles as proposed by Legg.

• District 1 – mid November through mid February, billed March 1.

• District 2 – mid December through mid March, billed April 1.

• District 3 – mid October through mid January, billed Feb. 1.

Howe liked the changes recommended by staff as a fairer way of measuring consumption – the higher the use, the higher the rate, he said.

Customers in this classification will pay the minimum charge if the use less than 7,500 gallons of water in the quarter, more if they use more, Councilmember Bruce Sanders said.

Howe hoped the system would be open for re-examination next year, he said.

That would be the case and why the base charge/consumption charge system was being phased in, Legg said.

According to Legg, single-family/duplex residential customers are scheduled to move from the flat fee to the base charge/consumption rate next year.

Under the approved sewer rates, there is no increase for single-family/duplex properties at $61 per unit and $32.50 for seniors this year.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]