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Rate hike takes effect May 1 in Orchard City

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Following action by the Orchard City Town Board on March 8, customers of the town's domestic water system will see steep increases in both base charges and user fees beginning May 1.

The move came on a split 5-1 vote. Trustee Craig Fuller, saying that he understands and sees need for increased water rates, added that the proposal which hikes charges by double or more was "too much to put on the plate all at once. It is too much too quickly. It should be phased in over time."

Addressing his town board colleagues prior to the vote he said, "After what I've heard tonight and from other constituents, I will vote no."

(See related story.)

Fuller also noted that past town boards of which he was a member should have taken action to raise rates sooner when smaller increases might have been sufficient.

Trustee Gynee Thomassen said she "would rather have [the large rate hike] now" instead of a series of incremental increases.

Even still, additional rate increases may be necessary, trustees have said. Mayor Ken Volgamore has said that additional rate increases may yet be required annually beginning as soon as next year. The present rate increases "put us back in the game," Volgamore said.

Trustee and water rate architect Dick Kirkpatrick said the goal is to build up reserves in the depleted water fund to $2 million. The new rates are expected to accomplish that in about eight years if there are no large draw downs for repairs or system improvements in that time, trustees say.

During a separate discussion of the water rates at a March 1 work session, it was stated that once the $2 million in reserves is accumulated, excess water revenues will go into the town's water capital construction fund along with residents' monthly fee payments to that fund.

The monthly base charge in-town will rise from $13 to $25, and the use rate for the first 20,000 gallons will rise from $0.99 per thousand gallons to $1.89 per thousand gallons.

The monthly outside-of-town base charge will rise from $17 to $32, and the use rate for the first 10,000 gallons will rise from $1.16 per thousand gallons to $2.20 per thousand gallons.

Other of the town's 16 different water rates will also increase. The increases will be felt "across the board," town officials said. The monthly $5 capital construction fee for residential users will remain the same.

In addition, in-town residential, three-quarter-inch tap usage rates are as follows: 20,001 gallons to 30,000 gallons, $2.89 per thousand; 30,001 gallons to 40,000 gallons, $4.34 per thousand; 40,001 gallons to 50,000 gallons, $7.59 per thousand; and, 50,001 gallons and up, $12.65 per thousand.

The town staff will be preparing a mail piece on the new rates which will go out within "a couple of weeks," said town Administrator Melissa Oelke. In addition, the new rate schedule will be posted on the county website, she said.

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