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Sewer rates increase to help pay for new plant

by Ginna Young Sewer rates are going up, as determined by the Cornell City Council at a regular meeting Sept. 3, with Ordinance 20-2 establishing new sewer rates to help fund the wastewater treatment plant upgrades. The move comes to generate revenues to cover operating and maintenance expenses, replacement requirements and debt service payments.

The new rates include domestic and non-domestic sewage customer fixed charges of $9.32; a volume charge of $5.57 per 1,000 gallons; a flat rate for unmetered customers with a household of two or less for $31.38; a household of three or more for $52.07; a tanker truck haulers holding tank discharge of $13.82 per 1,000 gallons; and a septic tank discharge of $35.94/1,000 gallons.

“That’s the first version of what you’re authorizing me to do,” said city administrator Dave DeJongh.

The new rates become effective with the Nov. 1 billing cycle.

Members also agreed to upgrade the city’s Classic municipal software to Connect version, from Civic Systems. The existing system is 15 years old, and while the city has avoided a few upgrades, it won’t be long before they’re forced to look for other options.

The system creates the payroll, accounts payable and utility billing.

“We’ve pretty much got to have that,” said DeJongh. “The days of doing all that by hand are done.”

The cost for the switchover is $19,875. Currently, the city pays $5,600 in support fees and will see an annual support fee that will increase by $750.

“I see the assurance that we’ll never have to purchase another upgrade at any point in the future,” said council member Steve Turany. “Isn’t that a bold statement?”

DeJongh said that is why the annual fee is going up and that the city would always be on latest version of the software.

“It’s best for the community,” said DeJongh. “At some point, we’re going to be out in the cold with the version we have.”

The council also approved an encroachment license agreement for $1, with Mark Naas, owner of Hey Everything Hardware Store. Naas acquired the property adjacent to the store to the west on Fourth Street.

“His plan is to put in some greenhouse structures and sell plants out of that,” said DeJongh.

Based on where the structures would have ended, Naas thought there might be a conflict and asked a few questions about the right-of-way, discovering there is not enough space for the design planned.

“It’s right-of-way that we’re not utilizing at this point,” said DeJongh.

The city attorney gave his blessing to offer the license for not more than 20 years, unless the buildings are replaced or the property is sold.

Council members agreed the vacant property was overgrown and becoming an eye sore, but is already looking better after Naas acquired it.

“That’s a really good idea, I think,” said council member Terry Smith of the greenhouse.

Mayor Mark Larson also issued a Fair Housing Proclamation, that recognizes there should be equal opportunity housing for all, regardless of race, religion, gender or disability. The proclamation is a requirement of the Community Development Block Grant the city received to help fund the wastewater treatment plant.