Pleasureville sewer is in the hole

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Auditor recommends rate increase to make up for shortfall

By Jonna Spelbring Priester

General Manager

Whether they like it or not, members of the Pleasureville City Commission will have to take a serious look at raising sewer rates for residents.

During the commission’s Monday night meeting, auditor Constance M. Rawlins, told the commissioners that while the city’s finances are in good order, two things concerend her — neither of which dealt with record keeping. Rawlins was concerned by the city’s sewer and garbage collection funds.

“The sewer, really, with all of the debt that it has does not generate enough cash to keep it going,” she told the council. The sewer service had a loss of about $41,000 from July 2007 to June 2008. Major repairs may have contributed to that loss, according to Rawlins. She added that $34,000 was transferred from the city’s general fund to the sewer fund.

The other problem area, garbage collection, also had a loss, but not quite as dramatic. With a loss of $5,100, the city may need to look at raising garbage rates or renegotiating rates with Industrial Disposal, Rawlins said. Part of the problem, she said, is that the city’s contract with ID is for 350 customers, and ID picks up about 310 customers. Though there is a descrepancy, she said the franchise fee might make up the difference.

“So, with having the rate increase from Eminence, it might be time to take a look and see what might be done to shore up the sewer and trash system so you can get your expenses down and your income up,” Rawlins said. “Your financial statements are fine, I just see a cash flow problem with the sewer system, and there’s still quite a few years to go on paying off the debt.”

The city hasn’t had a sewer rate increase since 2004, and Rawlins said the city may need to consider another one, particularly with the rate increase from Eminence for treatment of waste water. She added that more water is going through the sewer system than water that’s coming into the city. That could mean a malfunctioning meter, or, more likely, water infiltration.

“I don’t know of an inexpensive way (to find it),” Rawlins said. “It’s always expensive to find where it’s getting in.”

Pleasureville Mayor Rodney Young said that though the season was dry, the main pumping station was wet, a clear sign of a leak, with “as much coming through the walls as through the pipes.” The leak was repaired during the summer of 2008, and since then the sewer amount of waste water has gone down, Rawlins said after reviewing current data.

Young said at this point, he sees few options.

I don’t see any way around the rate increase, that’s one of the last things (we wanted to do),” he said. “We’re going to have to do some repairing. When you do a repair, you need to set something back.”

Rawlins, who will develop some price increase options for the city, said of the city’s 332 bills in November, one-third paid the minimum bill. Of those, 46 used less than 1,000 gallons and five that used more than 10,000 gallons of waste water. Rawlins said the city could inrease the rates on the lower end of waste water consumption, or the higher end.

“The least amount of water would be the elderly, so I wouldn’t touch the lower end,” Commissioner Gary Grigsby said.

Former commissioner Pam Whitaker suggested the commission look at raising the sewer and garbage rates by $1 each, but added that the reason some families moved out of the city was because of the sewer rates. “You take a family of two or three, and it’s $100 for your water and sewer each month, that’s high,” she said.

“We just didn’t (install sewers) soon enough, when we could have gotten the grants, instead of listening to everybody complaining.”

The commission asked Rawlins to develop some options for rate increases, which could be presented next month.

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