Archive for Thursday, December 27, 2007

Sewer rates going up 6.2 percent

December 27, 2007

De Soto residents will see a 6.2 percent increase in their monthly sewer bills with the start of the new year.

The De Soto City Council approved the increase last Thursday, but it was built in to the 2008 budget approved in August. Residential customers paying the base rate for service will see monthly bills increase from $11.10 to $11.79.

The latest hike was one of a series of annual 6.2 percent increases planned when the council approved a financing plan for the new wastewater plant in the West Bottoms, which became operational in March. However, the increase planned for the start of 2006 didn't happen after former City Administrator Greg Johnson resigned to take a job in his native Wisconsin. That forced the council to approve a 10 percent increase in August 2006 to make up for the missed stepped increase.

Because the one planned increase was overlooked, the result was a 16 percent increase in the last 16 months, Councilwoman Mitra Templin said in voting with the rest of the council to approve the hike.

"Shame on us for not paying attention," she said.

De Soto residents could see some relief from the steady increases.

In a report to the council, City Administrator Pat Guilfoyle wrote that the new sewer plant was operating more efficiently than anticipated. Should that trend continue, other increases slated for 2009 though 2012 might have to be at the 6.2 percent now anticipated.

But Guilfoyle wrote the approved increase would be prudent because the current housing slump reduced the revenue the city received from its sewer system development fees on new construction. It was anticipated the city would see 45 homes built this year when the wastewater plant's financing plan was crafted. A report from city building inspector Steve Chick to Guilfoyle indicated the city had only 11 new housing starts in 2007 as of last week. Of those, most were large-lot septic homes and their builders weren't required to pay the city's sewer system development fee.

Helping to offset the small number of housing starts was a good year in commercial and industrial development, which generally provides more revenue than a single housing start because larger service lines require large tap fees. In the last 12 months, the city has issued permits for a new building in the The Commons office complex, Engineered Air's two plant expansions, a new car wash and new storage unit complex.

Councilman Mike Drennon said it was important the council continue efforts to bring in commercial and industrial development to spare De Soto residents the burden of paying for the sewer.

The council took action at the meeting to assist the growth of one local industry with the approval of a tax abatement and issuance of industrial revenue bonds for an 11,664-square-foot building at Intervent Inc. campus.

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