Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Water District will conduct cost of service study during summer

May consider rate increase following study

J-E News Editor
Concerns over rising electric rates were the biggest concern of the Webster County Water District at it’s monthly meeting, held last Thursday morning in Dixon.
District superintendent Paul Lashbrook told the board that over the last three months they have received bills from Kenergy for $7,001, $9,730 and $12,800.
“A lot of that has to do with the electric rate increase,” he said. “We’ve also had uncommonly cold weather, which had a little to do with it too.”
Lashbrook cautioned the board that the $12,800 bill from February might not be the highest, saying that the bills often ran a month behind.
“We’ve been doing a lot of research on the cost of producing water,” he said. He said assistant superintendent Robert Schindley has been feeding data on expenses and salaries and feeding them into a computer program. “It came to about $2.00 per 1,000 gallons of water produced.”
Lashbrook’s suggestion to the board was that they bring in a professional to do a cost of service study. That study could identify areas where the district could be losing funds, helping them to tighten up their expenditures.
“I’m sure they’ll suggest that we should raise the rates, and I’m sure we should,” he said, pointing out that the water district had not increased rates since April of 1999. “None of us wants to raise rates, but we have an obligation to keep the water district financially solid. I’m not saying we are going to go broke tomorrow, but stuff is starting to break and wear out on us.”
After some discussion with the board members, it was decided that the cost of service study should wait until after the Public Service Commission (PSC) makes a decision on another rate increase request filed by Big Rivers, the company that supplies Kenergy with electricity.
The board will consider having the study done sometime in mid-summer.
In other business, board members decided not to change the district’s policy on water turn ons. Currently when water is restored to a structure, the worker who turns the service back on will stay with the meter until it stops running.
At last month’s meeting the board discussed changing the current policy to require that the property owner or some other representative be in the home to sign a waiver form before service was restored. The concern was that if the service had been shut off to allow some plumbing work to be done, those lines might start to leak when filled with water. If no one was home it could flood the entire house, leaving the county open to some liability.
“This would open up a whole new ball game for us,” said Schindley. “I think it would cost us a whole lot more down the road.”
He said that under the new policy, district employees would be forced to work on the customer’s schedule. This could lead to lots of down time and even over time.
Lashbrook said that he spoke with several other districts, and everyone had the same policy that is currently on the books for Webster County. Apparently the service contract signed by customers when they start their initial service releases the district from liability in such cases.
It was reported that the county had finally received all bills for damage caused to pumps at the Green River water intake last month when an unknown shooter destroyed a transformer. After being shot the transformer blew, causing two of the intake motors to burnout.
The final cost was between $20,000-$21,000. Lashbrook expects the districts insurance to cover all but their $1,000 deductible.
Finally, board members voted to purchase a new service two-wheel drive service truck. They will pay $20,070 for a new 2X4 1/2 ton Dodge Ram, which is expected to arrive in about six weeks.
All but $70 of this purchase was included in the yearly budget.

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