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City eyes increase for water rates

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City eyes increase for water rates

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HARTINGTON — Water rates could soon see an increase here. After an examination of similar-sized communities around the region, city officials have discovered Hartington charges one of the lowest rates around for its city utilities.

“Our current water, sewer and garbage expenses and income are about breaking even, giving us no cushion,” Mayor Mark Becker told City Council members Monday. “If we need infrastructure improvements, we simply don’t have the funds for that with these kind of rates.”

Earlier this year the city discussed the possibility of putting in a new well. The city will also have to do something in the near future to improve the storm sewer system and water drainage along North Madison Avenue in downtown Hartington, Council members were told Monday.

Assistant City Clerk Shelly Becker said her research shows the average residential customer here pays $44 a month for water, sewer and garbage.

If the city increased its rates enough so its rate structure was closer to the average rate structure of a city this size, it would be able to put some money in reserves so infrastructure improvements could be made without causing a financial hardship to the city, Mayor Becker said.

“Our goal is to try to get to a rate that would represent an average rate for communities like us and I think that is a fair rate,” Becker said. “Given that we are so low in this area, if we can up it to where we are even just average, we will put ourselves in a good position.”

Most Council members seemed to be in agreement.

“Whether we would need a treatment plant some day, or a new well, I think we need to build a rainy day fund,” Councilman Roman Sudbeck said.

Councilman Christensen feels the same way.

“I think we absolutely, at the bare minimum, have to get our rates to the average,” he said.

Rough calculations show that if the city would raise its rates to the average utility rate for a community this size, the average residential bill is estimated to rise by about $20 a month.

Council members said they might want to raise this rate gradually, instead of doing it all at one time, however.

No specific proposals were laid out and no action was taken on the issue Monday. 

Becker did ask the Council to talk about this and think about it prior to their upcoming budget workshop, though.

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