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Vandalia's water, sewer rates increasing

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

Over the objection of two aldermen, the Vandalia City Council decided to allow recommended increases in water and sewer rates to go into effect next Thursday.

Those rate increases – 7.19 percent for water and 2.19-percent for water – were recommended by the city’s auditor, Timmermann & Co., as they mirror the percentage increases in water and sewer expenses over the past year.

Under a city ordinance approved by the council several years ago, hikes that reflect water and sewer production cost increases automatically go into effect. The city council, however, has the authority to decide whether to freeze rates or implement increases that differ from the recommended rates.

At Monday’s council meeting, Aldermen Chad Feldpouch and Mike Hobler asked the council to keep the water and sewer rates for city residents at their current levels – $13.46 for water and $8.32 for sewer ($29.47 total, including $7.59 for trash ), for residents at the minimum-billing level of up to 2,000 gallons.

The analysis performed by Timmermann & Co. proposed raising those rates to $14.43 for water and $8.50 for sewer ($30.62 total).

The minimum-billing rates for those living outside the city will increase from $26.92 to $28.86 for water and from $16.64 to $17 for sewer.

Feldpouch said that a number of residents, particularly senior citizens, have approached him since the recommended increases were released two weeks ago.

“They have a real concern (about the increases),” Feldpouch said.

“I think that, due to the economic climate and situations in the community, this would not be a good time to raise the rates,” Feldpouch said.

He made a motion to freeze the rates, and Hobler seconded the motion.

But they were the only two aldermen to vote for the rate freeze. Those voting to allow the increases to go into effect on Thursday, Oct. 1, were Larry Bennett, Bret Brosman, Jerry Swarm, Larry Cable and Dean Black.

Overall, city residents will see their water and sewer rates (which include garbage pickup) increase by about 4 percent, according to City Administrator Jimmy Morani.

The council approved the resolution on automatic increases when it was faced with implementing double-digit increases in water and sewer rates after not increasing the rates at all for several consecutive years.

Last year, the council allowed recommended increases of 6.08 percent for water and .59-percent for sewer to automatically take effect.

In 2007, they allowed the recommended increase of 1.96 percent for sewer, but lowered the increase for water from the recommended 12.54 percent to 5 percent.

In presenting his firm’s analysis of the city’s water and sewer systems, Dale Timmermann told the council that the water department’s losses for the past year totaled $524,000, and that a considerable amount of that total was money owed by the state for water and sewer provided to Vandalia Correctional Center.

According to Morani, the state’s past due amount included $103,217.81 for water and $39,843 ($143,060.81 total).

At Monday’s meeting, Mayor Rick Gottman told the council that the city had recently received four checks from the state.

The state submitted two checks totaling $24,993 for water and two checks totaling $19,516 for sewer.