Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Sebree sets new sewer rates

J-E Editor
After much debate, Sebree City Council members passed a measure on Monday night that would create a sewage usage fee for sewer customers who live outside the city limits and use city sewer but not city water. These customers, who until now had paid nothing for that service, will be looking at a bill that will include a $20 per dwelling surcharge, plus 100% of their water usage at the city’s out of town rate.

The out of town rate for Sebree water customers is $24.19 for the first 2,000 gallons and $7.54 per additional thousand gallons. According to a prior report from the Webster County Water District, their average customer uses 4,000 gallons per month. That would make the new sewer rate for the average customer ti $39.27 plus the $20.00 service fee for a total of $59.27 per month.

Not everyone was happy with the decision. Mark Moser, former council member and owner of JEM Development, the company looking to build an apartment building just outside the city’s southern border, urged the city to consider dropping the $20.00 fee and base the rate entirely on water usage.

Moser has said that the county wants the apartments to be on one meter, and according to the city’s rates, since there is no way for the city to know which units are rented and which aren’t, their only option is to charge $20 per unit regardless of occupancy. That would result in an automatic $160 per month bill, even if only one of the eight units is rented.

“All I am asking is for you to do this fairly,” Moser told the council. “If you go simply on usage, its fair for the customer and the city stands to make more profit.”

“I don’t think the city needs to get into the business of policing things,” said Emory Thomas, director of public works. “If he wants to use one meter, he needs to pay the flat rate.”

A city ordinance does not allow multiple dwellings on the same meter, with the exception of a few that were in existence prior to the ordinance, but the city has no control over how the county water district sets up their water service.

Moser asked the council to consider the situation of the factory currently located in the industrial park, which is across US-41 from the site of his apartment building. Regardless of how many employees work in that facility or how much water they use, they will only have to the $20 fee once plus water usage.

If the city based the rate on usage plus a small percentage up-charge, every customer would be charged the same rate. The council did not listen to his pleas, approving the rate 6-0.

In other business, the city awarded a bid to complete their waterline rehabilitation project to Twin State Utilities Inc. (TCU) from Mt Hermon, KY.

Grimes Construction Company of Paris, KY originally won the bid in 2014, but were less than 50 percent completed more than a month after their completion deadline ran out in November. The city ended up settling a suit with the contractor in December so they could proceed with the project.

TCU was the lowest bidder on the project, bidding $769,161. Two other bids were submitted by Stocks Construction ($1,023,425) and Cleary Construction ($1,047,493).

Thomas explained to the court that the discrepancy in prices was due mainly to the work loads of Stocks and Cleary. Both companies had recently taken larger jobs, but had agreed to bid on the Sebree project anyway.

The project is expected to begin within the month and has a strict six month deadline. It calls for the replacement of around 10,000 lineal feet of water line.

Finally, on a motion from councilman Harold Orrick, the council agreed to annex the  17 acres of property that holds the old Sebree Carhartt building. The city already owns the structure, which is uses primarily as a senior citizens center.

According to city officials, the property already connects to city development on two sides, so annexing it shouldn’t be a problem. City attorney Dorin Luck said he will review information on surrounding properties to see if any residents in the area are interested in being annexed as well.

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