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Residents will see new water/sewer rate increases on May bills

By Alisha Thompson

Councilmen voted to pass the first water/sewer rate increases the city has seen in the last 7 years. Councilman Jeremy Bumgarner seemed to echo the sentiments of the majority of the council when he said that the decision was very hard for him to make, that it was hard on everyone, but knew his vote should be yes.
The three phase implementation adopted at the council meeting will begin on March 15. The first phase will have a 74% rate increase for Davis residents inside Davis city limits. This phase (and all phases) include base charges for residential and commercial inside and outside Davis city limits. Base rate charges will be charged with no use from a customer with water and/or sewer.
Davis residents will see the increases affect their May bills.
The second phase will begin July 1, 2023, a 13% increase for Davis residents inside Davis city limits and the third phase will begin on July 1, 2024, with a 12% increase for Davis residents inside Davis City limits. With 2025 and 2026 each seeing a 3% rate increase. Councilmen will reevaluate the new rate increases in one year. In five years, there will be a five year utility review with the council.
These rate structures can be viewed online during the Feb. 14 Davis City Council meeting live streamed on Facebook.
Davis sewer rates equal 70% of the water rates for phases 1-3. Each phase will include a similar base charge for residential and commercial inside and outside of Davis city limits. Residents who have water and sewer will only be charged the base rate, once. If the resident doesn’t have water but has sewer, there will be a base rate charge for sewer.
“The sewer rate is going up drastically higher than the water rate,” explained City Manager Andy Holland. “Part of that is due to the fact that we need a new waste water treatment plant. We are currently in design and there is a projected construction cost of about $12.4 million (with a total cost of nearly $16 million) that we are going to have to borrow money against. In order to borrow the money we have to be solvent. We have to be balanced in our rate structure so that there is a guaranteed revenue that we can pay for our waste water treatment plant with.”
Holland said that the city did this around 10 years ago to pay for a water treatment plant. “Although we are making payments and have not defaulted on the payments themselves, we have defaulted on the promise we would change our rate structure to make it solvent,” Holland said.
Rural water rates will be discussed at the March 15 Davis City Council meetings. Representatives from the West Carter Rural Water District attended every meeting regarding the water/sewer rate increases. They asked for time to work with the city regarding their rates. There are varying factors that will help establish a water rate for the rural water customers including establishing a minimum number of gallons could help reduce the unit cost the districts want to purchase. West Davis Rural Water has a water contract through 2055.
The city has two sources of income: utilities and sales tax. “Fortunately, Davis has a third revenue stream and it’s Turner Falls. It’s been a blessing to all of us,” Holland said. “We do need to manage those revenue streams better so that we can capitalize on infrastructure improvements. Every year we have become more dependent on Turner Falls revenue to pay for our revenue to pay for operating costs.”
The rate increase will pay for utilities. What utilities? The money will go to water, sewer, streets and cemetery infrastructure and repairs. Major improvements, capitol improvements (such as major street improvements, like Third Street), will be paid for out of Turner Falls revenues.
Danny Chronister, who owns a semi-truck washing station, spoke against the rate increases.
Chronister said he didn’t think the water and sewer rates should be raised to pay for other things in the city. “I don’t think that the water and sewer rates were intended to pay for anything other than water or sewer. I don’t think you should create a slush fund. A year or two from now, something else is going to come up,” Chronister said. “You’re putting it on the backs of some who can’t afford to pay their water bills now. I am not opposed to raising this water bill to put it in the black.” On Feb. 18 Chronister had access to his semi-truck washing station blocked off.
Chad Fielding is employed by Falls Creek and has experience with budgeting, water, sewer and waste water treatment though his job. Falls Creek supplied the city with 8.7 million gallons of water in February 2021 after a historic ice storm ravaged Davis, affecting water operations.
Fielding mentioned the city adding $326,580 in new salary positions and that inflation was at its highest in 40 years. Fielding noted new revenue sources including parking fees instituted last year at Turner Falls Park. He questioned if the rate increase would fund any of the new salaries.
Bob Donaho spoke in favor of the rate increases. Donaho said that the issue wasn’t the rate increase, it’s the large cities surrounding us that don’t have the proper water/sewer plans or infrastructure that are looking to small cities to purchase their water. Donaho suggested the city do the entire three year increase in one year in an effort to prepare for the chance they could be approached by larger cities looking to purchase their water.
After some discussion, councilmen deferred to City Clerk/Treasurer Susie Suther with Mayor Brian Davis saying she was instrumental in helping councilmen understand the need for the proposed rate increases.
Mayor Davis, Stan Jones, Clint Grinstead and Jeremy Bumgarger voted in favor of the rate increase. Councilman Josh Oakley voted no and said that he had an issue with this rate increase potentially affecting those who could not afford to put food on their tables or purchase medicine.
Davis Municipal Authority
In a 4 to 1 vote with Oakley voting no, councilmen approved the Davis/DMA Fee Schedule. Councilmen voted to approve the contract for Hayter Engineering to map and model services for a water and sanitary sewer system study at Turner Falls Park.
The reversal of two Kubota zero turn mowers with 54” deck approved as surplus items in the Jan. 10 council meeting was approved.
Davis City Council
Resolution 591 for OG&E Great American Cleanup Grant was approved. Resolution 592 for the City of Davis/DMA Fee Schedule was approved unanimously. Resolution 593 for State Farm Neighborhood Assist Grant was approved.
Resolution 594 for TSET Health Incentive Program Grant was approved.
Graver Engineering will provide engineering services for Sixth Street from Allen to Benton Avenues.
Physical Therapy Central will lease the old Senior Citizens Center on Fourth Street until renovations can be made to their building after a fire. Clifton Kirby will receive his lump sump retirement from OkMRF.
The next council meeting will be at 6 p.m. March 15 at 306 S. Third Street.

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