By: Sandy Schroth
Special to the News
Brunswick residents will see an increase in the cost of water on their next village bill.
The village board of trustees approved raising rates, when the board met last Wednesday in the fire hall community room. The change is effective immediately, with water used since July 1 to be billed at the new rates.
A Chris Twibell motion to increase rates was seconded by Ed Wahrer and carried on a 3-0 roll call vote, Twibell, Wahrer and Joe Rumsey voting aye, Craig Forbes absent and chairman Jim Meuret not voting.
According to Meuret, the increase comes on the recommendation of Richard Burch with Midwest Assistance Program, who has been working to help the village to comply with USDA water system loan accounting requirements.
The minimum fee, for up to 10,000 gallons, will increase $7, from $25.50 per month to $32.50, as recommended by Burch, a 27.5% increase. The overage charge will go up 48%, to $1.85 per 1,000 gallons, up from $1.25, but still less than the $2.60 recommended by Burch. Another increase is anticipated in January.
“We need to raise the money that we spend every year on our water, and we haven’t been doing it. He (Burch) gave us a lot of information on the water rates. There are some sizable increases that would definitely put us to the mark, whether you want to do those all at once or you want to step in. Mr. Burch recommended that maybe we step into it in a couple different stages,” Meuret said. “I’d take a couple whacks at it.”
Twibell said, “My gut says you raise probably at least the minimum to get us where we are covering ourselves now and you are probably looking at another raise …around the first of the year, maybe you do the $7 now on the base and you do a partial on the other, knowing that probably in January you are going to make another adjustment.”
After commenting he had read the entire packet prepared by Burch and knew “as much now as I did before,” Rumsey advised making the increases in one step.
“I’d just go ahead and step on it and get it done,” he said. “In January, there’s not going to be a lot of overage, if you are going to try to make up some of the money, now would be the time to do it.”
Mike Masat, the village employee tasked with maintenance of the system and reading water meters, suggested a smaller increase in the base rate, decreasing the minimum gallon requirement, and a larger increase in the overage rate, which he said would give residents more control over their monthly charges. He compared a village resident who typically uses only 250 gallons, to residents who use 70,000 or 80,000 gallons monthly. He suggested a $.75 hike in the over-minimum rate, to an “even $2” per 1,000 gallons.
“What I see reading the meters, there’s some people use less than 2,000 (gallons)…most towns aren’t 10,000 for the minimum. So you can lower that down and then raise the overage up, then people have a choice to either water or not to water…I think you are better off raising the overage.”
Meuret, on the other hand, maintains most of the cost comes from infrastructure with the expense to pump additional water being minimal.
“The minimum is not going down,” he said. “There’s no lowering rates in discussion here. The only discussion… would be fixed costs versus variable, you got a meter and you got the same pipes under the ground and you got the same wells running.”
Meuret drafted a letter to USDA, outlining steps the village is taking to correct deficiencies. The letter and a packet of data compiled by Burch will be submitted. Accountant, Gina Shefl with Professional Accounting Solutions in Norfolk, will help set up accounting practices recommended by Burch.
“Our next round of work is going to be towards year end, toward our fiscal year end, we’ll have the Norfolk people help us, we are going to do a better job of enterprise accounting inside our accounts, so we need a beginning balance. …We’ll start over, maybe Krystal will get little bit of Quickbooks training,” Meuret said.
The trustees also adopted a resolution, on a 3-0 voice vote, to bond all signers for the village account at Brunswick State Bank, as required by USDA. Previously just Buck was bonded. The resolution gives authority for adding Meuret and Wahrer, who are included on the bank signature card.
Meuret also addressed requests received from residents to include the number of gallons used on statements, “I do think that’s important, a little more work for our clerk but…we can do it.”
As the meeting concluded, Buck asked if an ordinance was required for the rate changes, saying USDA usually “asked for ordinances.”
Meuret asked why she hadn’t told them earlier, then proceeded to review the village code book, finding that an ordinance was needed, and asked for a motion. A Wahrer motion was seconded by Rumsey and carried on a 3-0 vote, viva voce.
Among claims approved for payment was an invoice from Terminix for treatment of insects at the auditorium. The bill presented for approval by Buck totaled $2,647.50. She was advised the village was not required to pay sales tax.
“No. $2,500,” Meuret told her. “Send them $2,500 and the tax form.”
Termites were treated June 26, more than a year after they were first observed actively feeding in the structure, with a total of 38 bait pods placed around the perimeter, as well as spraying inside. Masat said live insects were observed in the old library and city office rooms.
“They were alive, you could see them moving,” he said.
Masat reported he had repaired and cleaned the two rooms following Terminix’ treatment.
“I don’t know what you want to use the library for, but maybe that would be a nice place for the coffee drinkers,” he suggested. “Actually, the library’s fixed up and the office is fixed up, so the office is better than the last time we were in there.”
Rumsey and Meuret preferred moving the village records to the former library room and holding future meetings there.
Proposals for a grant writer and general administrator were approved, on a 3-0 voice vote, for the village street improvement grant application. Just one company submitted bids, the village’s engineering firm, Miller & Associates.
The grant writing proposal included no fee. The document stated the firm regularly provides the service to their municipal clients at no charge.
The proposal for administration of the grant includes a fee of up to $25,000, which will come from the potential grant proceeds, and will only be charged if the grant application is successful.
The trustees had voted at their June meeting to proceed with application for a Community Development Block Grant program public works grant to fund repaving, with concrete, a portion of Franklin Street, from the railroad tracks, north to the village limits, estimated to cost $524,384. The local match, if the grant is approved, will be about $100,000. Notice of grant awards is anticipated in October or November, with funds to be released between March and May next year and construction, April – July 2022. If the grant is not awarded in the current cycle, the grant application will be resubmitted, with a year delay in projected dates, according to Meuret.
The trustees also heard the heat had bulged the sidewalk in front of the community room. Masat planned to have it repaired by a contractor working in the area.
A building permit application submitted by John Kumm was not addressed. Twibell said the application had been submitted to his office and was still on his desk at the bank. Construction work is underway.