Coon Rapids sewer, water rates to increase

Coon Rapids property owners will soon be paying more for sanitary sewer and water services on their quarterly utility bills.

The Coon Rapids City Council June 3 unanimously approved increases in the sewer and water rates, effective July 1.

The sewer rates will increase 6 percent overall, but the staff recommendation accepted by the council only increases the water rates service charge by $2 from $10 to $12 for the rest of 2014, with a full rate increase to include the consumption charge proposed for next year.

According to Finance Director Sharon Legg, it would be prudent to increase the water rates per 1,000 gallons used at this time, but it makes more sense to do so in 2015 because it is now the beginning of the watering season.

“Since accounts are billed for the past three months of usage, it does not give citizens enough time to reduce consumption if trying to control costs at this time,” Legg wrote in a report to the council.

The service fee jump will increase water fund revenues by $175,000, she said.

While the water fund operated in the black in 2013, it received a significant hit in the first quarter of 2014, paying for frozen water pipes, Legg said.

“Approximately $350,000 was spent to hire contractors to thaw water lines, in addition to the time spent by city staff,” she wrote. “Additionally, disturbed streets still need to be repaired.”

According to Legg, the city is replacing water mains as part of its annual street reconstruction program, and that will continue in the future as a way of reducing the number of water main breaks.

For example, this year the city is spending some $1 million alone to replace water mains in the Woodcrest area when the streets are reconstructed. A contract was recently awarded for that project.

The city has 292 miles of water mains and it costs about $1 million for each mile of pipe replacement, Legg told the council.

A draft water plan will be presented to the council in the next month, outlining work that needs to be done on the aging infrastructure over a period of years, according to Public Works Director Tim Himmer.

The estimated $290 million cost would “be spread over a long period of time,” Himmer said.

“Little by little we are doing spot replacements as part of street reconstruction projects,” he said.

Sewer rates

The 6 percent overall increase in sanitary sewer rates, approved without comment by the council, will allow the sewer fund to break even in the long run, even though it will only be collected for half a year, according to Legg.

“Thus, it is anticipated that the fund will still show a loss for 2014,” Legg wrote in her report to the council.

The sewer fund budget has increased some $370,000 from 2013 to 2014, about 6 percent, she wrote.

Of that figure, $143,000 will pay for an increase in disposal charges from the Metropolitan Council Environmental Services, $66,000 for depreciation of the sewer lining and lift station projects that took place in 2013 and $45,000 for an increase in insurance costs, Legg told the council.

Under the council action, property owners will see a quarterly increase in the base fee, the amount depending on the property classification, plus a winter quarter (or less) consumption per 1,000 gallons from $2.65 to $2.85 for residential properties and a jump from $3.05 to $3.20 per 1,000 gallons for non-residential properties.

However, apartments or units with sewer only pay a flat fee which increases from $41.50 to $43.60, while unmetered registered accounts also pay just the flat fee, which rises to $65.

The impact on other properties is:

– Single-family residential base fee increases from $22 to $23 and with the consumption rate factored in, the minimum quarterly charge rises from $42 to $44.50 and maximum charge from $90 to $96.

– For single-family residential seniors eligible prior to 1997, the base fee increase is the same as single-family residential, but the minimum charge increase is from $36.75 to $39, but the maximum jumps from $90 to $96.

– Duplex per unit base fee increases from $17 to $18 with the minimum quarterly bill increasing from $37 to $38.50 and the maximum from $85 to $91.

– Townhomes, condominiums, mobile homes per unit base fee rises from $10.50 to $11, with the minimum rate going from $30.37 to $38.50 and the maximum from $81 to $87.

– Townhouses and apartments with common meter base fee jumps from $7 to $7.50 with no maximum or minimum charge.

– Commercial base fee goes from $45 to $50 a quarter plus the consumption charge with no minimum or maximum caps.

– Industrial and institutional base fee increases from $55 to $70 plus the consumption charge with no minimum or maximum bill.

– Restaurant base fee rises from $70 to $75 plus the consumption rate with no minimum or maximum caps.

According to Legg, increases in the base fee, especially for property types with large areas and more pipe needed to serve the property, are greater, but there is less of an increase in the variable fee than for residential-type properties.

For example, industrial properties often do not put a large amount of sewage into the system, but do require more feet of pipe to be cleaned and repaired, since they are less concentrated than residential properties, Legg wrote in her report to the council.

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