Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Sebree Council grants JEM sewer rights, raises water rates

J-E Editor
Sebree city council members approved a request on Monday night to grant a request from JEM Development to tap onto the city’s sewer line in the Industrial Park south of town in order to build an apartment complex on 16.426 acres near the compaction center.
City attorney Dorin Luck told the council that Mayor Ozzie O’Nan had asked him to look into the situation due to it’s controversial nature.

“I understand the least I think I understand the situation,” Luck told the council. “The question posed to me is whether or not we, the city, have to allow JEM Development or anyone else in the Industrial Park tap on to our waste water line. I believe we do.”
Luck explained that sewer lines from the Industrial Park flow to a pump station, which then feeds the lines to the Jefferson Street pump station, which is owned and operated by Henderson. Henderson provides Sebree’s sewer and water services.
“Sebree didn’t pay for any of these lines coming from the Industrial Park,” Luck told the council. “We financed this through a $5-600,000 federal grant and coal severance money we got through the county.”
Luck explained that there were very limited reasons that the city could refuse service to a customer. If it were an industry that dealt in regulated discharges (such as metal processing) or if it were an industry that used sewer at a rate that would damage the lines, then the city could refuse service. Otherwise, there were no grounds to refuse service.
Several council members questioned the impact the proposed development would have on the pump station that handles the Industrial Park sewage flow. According to public works director Emory Thomas, the pump station is currently only being used at a fraction of it’s maximum capacity.
“The hardest thing on a pump is not running,” said Tim Brown, the civil engineering manager with Associated Engineers, who was speaking on JEM’s behalf. “JEM’s development will only use 1/25th of the capacity of the pump. You’re maintenance costs are probably higher now due to low flow than they will be if the pump was running.”
Council member Deb Stull brought up the possibility of forcing JEM to sign a contract taking responsibility for any damages to the pump station, but Luck said the city really couldn’t do that. There are already two customers tapped onto the line, and neither of them had to sign such a contract.
Luck also added that if the city voted the request down and JEM filed suit, it would be nearly impossible to win in court.
In the end the council voted 5-1 to allow the requested tap on. Council member Jana Forker was the only nay.
In other business, council members approved a rate increase for water service. The city’s flat rate went from $21.35 per 2,000 gallons to $21.85. Anything over 2,000 gallons went from $7.04 to $7.54 per thousand gallons. Working on an average of 4,000 gallons per customer, that brings the average monthly bill to $36.93. That is $0.33 more than the rate charged by Webster County Water.
Sebree purchases it’s water from Henderson, who sets the water rates paid by the city.
“I’m a little disgusted with water rates,” said council member Billy Smith. “They keep going up and up. Is there anything we can do? Can we tap onto county water?”
The answer was a resounding no. Although the city could possibly contact the county, Webster County Water Department does not offer sewer, which is a necessity in the Sebree area.
Council members also voted in a list of resolutions that were required in order to receive grant monies spent on the water project. Those included: Adopting a Fair Housing Policy; Establishing a Section 3 Plan; Prohibiting Drug Use and Certifying a Drug-Free Workplace; Adopt a Title VI Implementation Plan; and Adopting an Affirmative Action Plan.

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