Archive for Thursday, August 23, 2007

City raises water rate 3 percent

De Soto to explore curbside recycling

August 23, 2007

Turning the tap will soon cost De Soto residents more money.

The De Soto City Council last Thursday approved a 3 percent increase in customer water rates recommended by City Administrator Pat Guilfoyle. The increase will be applied to bills starting in September.

During budget discussions last month, Guilfoyle said the increase probably would be necessary to prevent further dipping into the water department's fund balance. The negative cash flow was aggravated by lower usage rates in the late spring and early summer because of wet weather. He indicated at that time, however, that he would monitor July's usage before making a suggestion.

July proved to be a continuation of the trend of previous low-volume months, Guilfoyle said. Water usage, and thus revenue, last month was well below that in July 2006 and 2005, he said.

"It produced about 30 percent less water revenue in (July) 07 than in 06," the city administrator said.

The increase would add 43 cents a month to the city's base rate, which applies to customers using less than 1,500 gallons of water a month.

The increase was needed to prevent depleting the fund balance and running the department in the red by 2010, Guilfoyle said.

Although not popular with the council, the rate increase was seen as necessary by most council members. Mayor Dave Anderson said it was a product of the city operating the water plant at the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant in need of upgrades. He also maintained it was a reflection of the city not adjusting rates enough in recent years.

Council member Mike Drennon disputed that. The council approved a 3 percent water rate increase in January and another 5 percent hike is slated for January 2008, he said. That would make an 11 percent increase in a year, he said.

"That's pretty heavy," he said. "I think we could stagger this out a little more."

Guilfoyle said he would continue his monthly monitoring of the department's revenue and might propose a downward adjustment to the planned 5 percent January increase.

Drennon said the usage woes were symptomatic of another problem -- the city's meager economic development growth.

On another utility related issue, the council agreed to allow Guilfoyle to solicit numbers for trash contracts that would include curbside recycling. However, council members were pessimistic the discussion would lead to anything affordable.

City Attorney Pat Reavey said the city's contract with Weldon Enterprises expires in January. Satisfied with the service Weldon provides, past councils have chosen to stick with the Eudora business.

As part of his last contract in 2006, Weldon placed a recycling unit in De Soto, which has been spotted at Morses' Market next to the De Soto Rotary Club's newspaper recycling bin.

Because of recent discussion on the council and requests from the public for curbside recycling, he asked Lloyd Weldon to propose a price for curbside recycling, Reavey said. Such a service would add $10 to $12 to customers' current $8.71 monthly trash bills, Weldon estimated.

Council members agreed that was too steep. At Councilwoman Mitra Templin's suggestion, it was agreed Guilfoyle should contact other providers to find out if any could provide curbside recycling in De Soto at an affordable rate.

While council members agreed to that limited goal, most weren't optimistic an affordable service could be found.

Weldon was proposing introducing uniform wheeled 95-gallon trash containers to customers, Reavey said. Weldon's new contract with the city of Eudora approved this summer included the trash containers and adds $3.40 to most monthly household bills

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