The North Bend Eagle

 

Water rates overdue for increase

by Nathan Arneal
Published 5/27/15

Water and sewer rates, pool improvements and park vandalism were topics of discussion at the May 19 [2015] North Bend City Council meeting.

Council president Kevin Ferguson presided over the meeting in mayor Jeff Kluthe’s absence.

With several major sewer repair projects on deck, the council took a look at the rates users of North Bend’s sewer and water systems are being charged.

The city consulted with the Nebraska Rural Water Association to get advice. City clerk Theresa Busse said that the NRWA suggests raising rates by small increments every three years to gradually keep up with rising costs. North Bend hasn’t raised its rates since 2005.

Busse said North Bend has been making ends meet by putting its sales tax to help pay water and sewer expenses.

“If we didn’t have the sales tax, our user rates would not cover our monthly expenses,” Busse said. “That’s what’s keeping us afloat.”

Busse said a survey of similar-sized towns shows that North Bend’s rates are among the lowest. Fremont’s are lower, she said, but that is because Fremont has many more people absorb its costs.

“We get by,” Busse said, “but (NRWA’s) recommendation is that we should be getting by without having to use the sales tax money.”

The basic water rate is currently $17.50 per month. NRWA recommends increasing that by four dollars a month. The usage rate is currently $1.50 for every 1,000 gallons of water. NRWA recommends that be increased to $1.80.

North Bend’s sewer fund operates at a loss every month, and on that side of things NRWA recommends an increase of seven dollars a month.

In all North Bend residents could be looking at an increase of $11 to $13 per month on their water and sewer bill.

“I think people would come unglued if we did that,” Busse said.

The council members agreed that an increase that large is too much to do at once.

“That’s the problem,” councilman Tim Blackmon said. “If you wait too long (to increase rates), and then you have a big jump like this, people won’t like it.”

The council discussed the possibility of gradually raising rates over a period of years.

No action was taken and the matter was tabled.

The council resumed its discussion on refurbishing the city park pavilion from the previous meeting after the contractor asked for more guidance in drawing up a design.

Ferguson reiterated the desire to get an estimate on installing poured concrete counters to combat the abuse and vandalism everything in the park is subject to.

Busse pointed out that the swimming pool had poured concrete counters installed when it was built 17 years ago, and they still look brand new.

That led to a discussion about vandalism to the restrooms in the baseball building. Last week a large branch was jammed down the women’s toilet. The park restrooms are normally open from about 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., but lately city staff has been locking them at 3:30 to prevent the damage that is inflicted in the hours after school.

Ferguson said he is in favor of leaving the restrooms locked all the time unless there is an event going on in the park or ball field. Council member Emily Kirschenmann agreed.

Councilman Tom Mullally said he thinks there needs to be public access to toilet facilities in the city park.

No action was taken.

The city pool is scheduled to open May 30, and Busse said the pool staff handbook has been updated with more detailed policies and guidelines.
Among the details put in writing is that family passes are good only for immediate family, not grandparents, baby sitters or friends.

After some discussion, the council decided that anyone who accompanies children to the pool in a supervisory capacity dressed in street clothes can enter the pool facility free of charge. However, anyone who enters the water in either the regular pool or the baby pool will be charged as a regular swimmer.

The council also decided to offer a $1 senior pass to the baby pool, so grandparents can go into the baby pool with the grandkids they are watching.

Correction: The senior pass idea was not passed. Anyone watching kids in the baby pool will be under the same policy as everyone else: supervising children from outside the pool is free; entering the water is full price. (Edited 5/29/15)

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