HARTINGTON — The Hartington City Council Monday voted to again raise water, sewer and garbage rates.
The rate increase, which takes effect June 20, is needed because city services are simply not paying for themselves, and the city must continually make upgrades to keep city services up to date and operating efficiently, Mayor Mark Becker said.
"We decided to increase rates to try to get them closer to the rates of other communities our size," Mayor Becker said. "We're still having a lot of problems cash flowing our garbage, water and transfer station services and we're trying to shore that up. This will bring us some more revenue, but I still don't know if we're going to be cash flowing yet with our services — especially with the cost of everything going up — but it will get us closer. "
Becker said the increases "reflect pretty closely to what our study showed for other communities like us."
The new monthly minimum for sewer service is $25.75 per month. The new minimum for residential garbage service is $17, while the monthly minimum for commercial garbage service is now $45. The monthly minimum for residential water service is now $26.
The city has been considering rate increases for quite some time, but held off until after Council members were able to examine more financial information from their city auditor.
A prime example of the expenses involved with operating city services is the water treatment plant.
Stockwell Engineering did a study on Hartington's facility awhile back, as did JEO Consulting.
"We haven't spent any money on any of this as of yet," Mayor Becker said. "These are all studies that were done for free to just get an assessment as to what needs to be done down the road."
The facility was built in 1975 and underwent a major upgrade 15 years later. The city has had some engineering firms assess the facility, and it looks like it could soon need a major overhaul, Becker said.
A group of city officials and utility department workers, as well as former utility department chief Pat Guy recently toured the facility with JEO representatives.
Becker said it was a very informative meeting.
"Pat thought the recommendations they were making were fair, and he thought it's probably time we do something because this will get more expensive as we go."
Becker said state and federal grant funds are now or will soon be available to assist in funding the project.
"If we decide to go after these funds, our application will go in a pool and we should know by October what kind of deal they might have for us. At this point we're fishing — there is no cost to the city to apply, we're not making any commitments, we're just seeing what is out there for funding," Becker said.
State and federal funds would need to be a big part of this project, he said.
"It's not going to be cheap — we are looking at a big number down the road," Becker said.
Council members then voted to put an application in to see what kind of funding would be available.
The Council also learned Monday the city has received a $31,411 dividend check from the city's insurance carrier, Anderson and Anderson and EMC Insurance.
EMC Insurance companies have a dividend program for all the municipalities and fire districts under 15,000 in population in Nebraska with whom they work. The company has paid out a dividend in 20 out of the past 27 years.
In other action, the Council also approved a building permit for Preston Leise to put in an 8x10 storage shed at his Westfield Acres home.
The Council also accepted the resignation of Kristie Wintz after 24 years of service to the Hartington Library Board and Hartington Library Foundation Board. The Council then appointed Lisa Becker to fill the position.
The Council also learned the swimming pool is expected to be open for the season sometime between May 27-29.
A Hartington Community Recreation Complex maintenance agreement with X-pert Lawn was also renewed by the Council Monday.
City Clerk Natalie Schaecher said a resident asked if a street light could be put up on an empty pole near his home because the street in front of his house is very dark. Councilman Chris Bartling said he looked at the area in front of the home and agreed it is pretty dark, and a light could easily be added.