The East Bethel City Council April 17 voted 4-1 to adopt the city’s initial water and sewer rates for those who will be connected to the city’s new system in the municipal utilities project area.
Councilmember Robert DeRoche voted against the rates proposed by city staff, saying that he believes the rates are too high.
Councilmember Heidi Moegerle, who made the motion to adopt the rates, said she wants the council to revisit the rates after one year, by which time City Administrator Jack Davis said true operational costs will be known. At that time rates can be adjusted up or down as necessary to cover the city’s actual costs.
Monthly water costs for those connected to the system will include a base charge of $5 per equivalent residential unit (ERU), plus a plant charge of $10 per ERU and $3 per 1,000 gallons of water used. The number of ERUs assigned to a business is determined by the Metropolitan Council Environmental Services (MCES) based on business type, anticipated peak water usage, building size and other factors. A property with one ERU assignment and a monthly water usage of 7,500 gallons would thus be charged $37.50.
Monthly sewer charges include a base charge of $5 per ERU plus a Metropolitan Council user charge of $2 per 1,000 gallons and a city usage charge of $2.75 per 1,000 gallons. A property with one ERU assignment using 6,250 gallons monthly would be charged $34.69.
DeRoche voiced concerns that setting the rates too high could discourage new businesses from coming to East Bethel.
Some cities charge $1 or $1.80 per gallon of water versus East Bethel’s proposed $3, and also that it is rare for a rate, once set, to ever be lowered in the future, he said.
Councilmember Ron Kollar said he agreed with DeRoche that it was important to keep rates as low as possible, “but we have to make the money to pay for the sewer system. And the fees here don’t seem too out of line.”
Kollar said later that the water and sewer rates for the city of Cambridge are actually a bit higher than what city staff was proposing for East Bethel.
“So we’re probably in the ballpark,” he said.
Cambridge is comparable to East Bethel in that it, too, has a stand-alone water and sewer system.
DeRoche said he wants to make sure that the money borrowed by the EDA from the HRA for this utility infrastructure loan fund program will, in fact, go back to the HRA when it is repaid to the city rather than being diverted elsewhere.