Lincoln County Journal

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City of Winfield expected to see higher water bills

Posted on Monday, June 16, 2014 at 9:52 am

The recent Winfield City Hall meeting was called to order just after 6 p.m. on Monday, June 9. With a missing Alderman, Brandon Gilbert of Ward I, none of the city ordinances that were up for discussion could be voted on. These included: an ordinance establishing the office of the City Administrator for the city of Winfield; appointing a City Administrator; and approving an employment agreement relating to such office and employment; an ordinance establishing a term of office for the office of City Clerk of the City of Winfield and establishing a process for removal from office; and lifting the current ordinance on riding regulations (bikes, skateboards, roller skates, etc.) in the town. These ordinances will be addresses at the next meeting where all aldermen are present.

Discussion took place on the riding ordinance, as many residents do not want more kids in the street, since not all of them follow the rules of the road. On the flip side, a group of responsible kids and their parents have been working with the City Clerk, Roschell Eaton, to lift the ordinance and make the town of Winfield more kid friendly. Their first option is to apply for a Tony Hawk Foundation Grant, which will help to build a skate park. This option will provide a place for those who want to exercise by using skateboards, bikes and roller skates a place to go and keep them off the streets. The second option will be to lift the ordinance and allow skateboarding, roller skating and biking on the roadway, but only with strict rules that must be followed for everyone’s safety.

A rise in the city’s water bill will be a shock as the current administration has discovered the previous administration had been undercharging the residents for the price of water. Current water rates are $3.00 for 1,000 gallons of use, minimum (1,500 gallons) is $8.22 and the cost of 5,000 gallons is $18.72. During the month of July the community will see a spike as now each 1,000 gallons used will be $7.00, Minimum (1,500) will be $18.50 and 5,000 will be $43.00.

The reason for this change is due to a discovery made by current administration investigating an unbalanced water budget from past years. The current volume rate of $3.00 per 1,000 gallons is less than the city is paying for water from its wholesale seller. The reason for the error of rates is undetermined at this time but looks to go back several years. The city appears to have been selling more water to its customers than it is buying from its wholesaler. The City had a Water Rate Study done by Missouri Rural Water Association which determined approximately 7 million gallons per year, for at least the last four years, has gone uncharged due to a Master Meter from the whole seller had not been properly working and slowed down and created an under-reading of the volumes passing through it. The Meter has been repaired/replaced. The final conclusion is that the water rates must be raised as the city of Winfield is selling water to residents cheaper than they are buying it from the wholesaler. The rates will be reviewed each year as part of the budget process, including updating the major replacement schedules, and make rate changes as needed.

In a handout at the meeting it stated, “The federal and state funding agencies look at affordability of water and wastewater rates as an indicator for approval of grant and loan funds. The ‘rule of thumb’ used is 2 percent of the median household income (MHI). The agencies consider this level of expense as ‘affordable’ for the average household using 5,000 gallons a month. If the rates are below this 2 percent threshold, the utility will be less likely to qualify for grants for projects. In the case of Winfield, MHI in 2000 is $36,167. The 2 percent affordability would be $60.28 per month for 5,000 gallons of water use and the same amount for wastewater use. As can be seen, the proposed rates are far below this ‘affordable’ rate according to the state and federal funding agencies.” Mayor Pat Grimler, along with the city aldermen, agreed that raising the MHI is not supported at this time and rates should ONLY increase on an as needed basis to maintain the operation of the water department and quality of water delivered to its residents.

The next City Hall meeting will be on Monday, July 14 at 6 p.m. Everyone is welcome to attend.