By: Sandy Schroth

Special to the News

Brunswick residents will likely see an increase in their monthly water bills.

Richard Burch with Midwest Assistance Program was scheduled to address the village board of trustees when they met June 10 at the fire hall community room, regarding the village water system’s compliance with United States Department of Agriculture mandates and regulations.

“The USDA hires these folks to help any community that is struggling with their USDA commitments for reporting, and ours - water reporting,” Jim Meuret, board chair, said. “We’ve been off a little bit, we’ve missed one or two, been late and we’ve fallen a little bit behind in our water reserve.”

Burch, who has been assisting village clerk Krystal Buck for several months, to get reports corrected and submitted, did not attend the meeting. Instead, he met with Meuret earlier in the day, and the chairman briefed board members.

“It’s nothing that we didn’t already know was coming,” Meuret said. “With our new maintenance program on the water tower, for about $20,000 a year, and with the expenses that we always undertake, a broken line or two during the year and general maintenance of the year, we’re beyond our budget in our water account. So, it’s nothing alarming, I write a letter to USDA, he’s going to help us send in a new reporting but we also need to tell them we’re going to raise the rates, to try to cover our shortage.”

The board took no action at the June meeting. However, they were told by Meuret that discussion and action to raise rates will be taken in July. He handed out packets prepared by Burch, asking the board members to review prior to the July 8 regular meeting.

“You are supposed to read through the new rates three times, but I believe there is also a way we can vote to bypass that three-reading ruling and do it quicker than that,” Meuret said. “Next meeting, we’ll figure out rates and we’ll figure out the processes.”

Meuret projected the base rate will increase 25%, from $25.50 per month to $32.50. Per-gallon cost for excess usage will also increase, projected at about $2 per 1,000 gallons.

“Bottom line is, in that packet you can see it, it’s got ‘17, ‘18 and ‘19 expenses, and some of them maybe a little bit misallocated, maybe they should have went in the general, but at this point it’s probably too late,” the chairman explained. “I do not think we’ll spend $60,000 a year on our water system going forward, but we did last year, and right in the face of running small deficits before then.”

He said issues date back to replacement of the village’s primary well and the water tower.

“By and large for the size town we have, we have a lot of term loan stuff on our water that goes all the way back to the well redo,” he said. “We did it twice - so we have a water tower loan… it’s low interest, relatively manageable terms, but on top of that, we have a couple little water loans, fixing that thing, the well.”

Meuret estimated annual debt service for the water system at $18,000 or $250 per water user. The number of metered users was listed at 82, but Meuret did not believe there are that many billed users. He said there are several municipal outlets and churches are not billed.

The average number of gallons sold each year is 14 million, and about 5% of the water pumped is unbilled, including waste for cleaning lines and other maintenance.

“We just probably got to do a little better job of accounting. We just got to track it a little bit better,” he said.

Meuret also asked the board to consider a motion to approve daily social gatherings at the community room -without charge. The group meets each weekday morning for coffee, with village officials not charging the normal rental fee. The board voted 4-1 to allow the meetings to continue without charge.

Trustee Craig Forbes, who cited wear and tear on the carpet and fixtures, was the only official to dissent the motion made by trustee Ed Wahrer, seconded by board member Joe Rumsey.

A $75 per day rental fee will continue to be imposed for other gatherings held at the facility.

Rumsey said the morning coffee events draw people from several surrounding communities, including Neligh, Plainview, Creighton and Royal, and each “throws” a dollar in a can every day, to cover the cost of coffee and supplies. He said they keep the room clean, “even” vacuuming and cleaning up after other users.  

“We don’t hurt anything,” he said.

Wahrer reasoned the daily gatherings are “community,” as opposed to “individual” gatherings that are imposed the rental fee.

“There is wear and tear to it, so it is something the village residents provide that is a service to whoever wants to come in here and have coffee,” Meuret said. “I just don’t see it hurts.”

Trustee Chris Twibell said, “I like to see it just because there’s activity.”

The board unanimously affirmed, on a Rumsey motion, with Wahrer seconding, proceeding with a grant application to fund repaving, with concrete, a portion of Franklin Street, from the railroad tracks, north to the village limits, estimated to cost the village about $100,000.

The proposed plan, prepared by grant administrator Jacque (Meuret) Haupt with Miller & Associates, for a Community Development Block Grant program public works grant, included options for an eight-inch overlay of asphalt at a total cost estimated at $365,369, with the local match of $66,074; and eight inches of concrete, estimated at $524,384, with the local match, $97,877. Engineers estimate asphalt paving to last 15-20 years, concrete, 30-35 years.

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 it is not awarded in the current cycle, the grant application will be resubmitted, with a year delay in projected dates, according to Meuret.

Forbes reported he and members of his family had stepped in to mow the village park and other village property the preceding week. Maintenance employee Mike Masat had been absent due to family medical issues. Rumsey asked if Forbes mowed private property across the street from the fire hall, saying Masat usually mowed it.

Forbes replied he hadn’t, and indicated mowing private property is not provided, according to village ordinance.

John Kumm was in attendance, to ask for requirements necessary to rebuild a structure on his property that was recently destroyed by fire. He was advised a building permit would be required. Meuret tasked Rumsey with checking village zoning regulations for appropriate setbacks.

Kumm said he planned to rebuild with a similar footprint. He was commended on his timely clearing of the burned property.

Kumm also requested beginning and ending water meter readings be included on monthly statements.  He said he was charged for an extra 17,000 gallons of water a couple months ago and rarely exceeds the minimum.

“When something like that develops, I don’t even know how much I use from one month to another, to compare it with,” he said.

Meuret also announced the birth of a daughter that morning to village clerk Krystal and her husband Todd Buck.

There was no maintenance nor clerk report.