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Colby to consider slight water rate hike in 2020

By Kevin O’Brien

A modest increase in water rates may be in store for Colby residents next year, based on discussions among city officials at a budget hearing last week.

The public hearing, required by law, did not bring out any members of the public, but it did feature a short discussion about the water utility’s need for more revenue in the future.

City clerk Connie Gurtner said a 3 percent increase would result in the monthly volume charge going up by 15 cents, from $4.95 to $5.10 per thousand gallons of water. For a household that uses 3,000 gallons per month, this would equate to about 45 cents more on that portion of the bill.

Gurtner said this would generate an additional $5,000 in annual revenue for the water utility.

The city also has the option of raising the monthly service charge, which is currently at $11 for residential customers with a 3/4 inch water meter.

Any increases to either the monthly service charge or the volume would need to be approved by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission.

Mayor Jim Schmidt said it’s been 10 years since the city last raised its water rates, and city officials would like to avoid having to do a major hike just to catch up with expenses.

Ald. Todd Schmidt said he remembers the city having to ratchet up rates by 80 percent one year because it had been so long since the previous increase.

Gurtner said raising the rates by 3 percent every three years should be sufficient to meet the water utility’s operational expenses and debt obligations.

In other budget news, the council voted to adopt a 2020 general fund with a total property tax levy of $552,944, an increase of about $31,000 (6 percent) over this year.

Gurtner said the city was able to raise its levy because of new debt it took on, but it still qualifi ed for expenditure restraint aid, in the amount of $23,000.

A projected deficit in the first draft of the budget was erased after the Colby-Abbotsford Police Department agreed to lower its annual budget request from the two cities.

Other business

_ The council approved a motion to designate North Second Street, from Spence to Adams, as a potential road project to be funded by a new state grant program that is providing 90 percent funding for local road projects. Another motion was passed to do resurfacing on six streets between STH 13 and Main St. — Clark, Graves, Broadway, Marathon, Washington and Lincoln — if the city were to receive a separate 50/50 grant from the state.

The city has hired engineering firm Cedar Corporation to apply for the two state grants.

_ The council approved a $171,711 pay request from Switlick and Sons for work done on the Fourth Street project earlier this year. The city is retaining about $6,000 of the total contract until the company pours a second lift of asphalt and finishes site restoration next spring.

_ The council approved a $93,801 pay request from Pember Companies for rerouting water from two wells on the south end of the city that had shown high levels of nitrates. The city is withholding about $15,000 until a malfunctioning nitrate analyzer is either fixed or replaced.

_ Resident Mike Kreciak told the council about ongoing issues with his neighbors’ dogs, and a recent incident in which he says they drove through a leaf pile in front of his house. He says his one of his neighbors started “yelling obscenities” at him during the incident, and yet he was the one who was cited for disorderly conduct after trying to resolve the situation in a “calm, civilized manner.”

“I was wrongly charged, and they filed a false police report in doing so,” he said.

_ The council voted to close city hall offices on the day after Thanksgiving, Nov. 29, with the clerk and deputy clerk planning to take vacation days.

_ DPW Harland Higley said the city was able to sell two of its old water and sewer utility trucks, for about $3,000 each, using an online auction site.