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Boreal Community Media

PUC votes on rates for 2018

Nov 24, 2017 06:16PM ● By Editor
By Brian Larsen from the Cook County News Herald - November 24, 2017

Grand Marais City Administrator Mike Roth made his recommendations to the Grand Marais public utility board for the city water, sewer and electrical rates for the coming year.

Roth proposed not to raise the city’s electrical rates, a two percent hike in the Water Fund budget and five percent increase in the Sewer Fund budget.

Roth made his presentation to the PUC at the board’s November 21 meeting.

“I recommend an increase of five percent in the sewer rates for 2018,” said Roth, who cited multiple upcoming projects that needed funding: the public works facility, AMI meter upgrades, and the First Street area reconstruction as well as the Fifth Street reconstruction. 

Also, noted Roth, the request by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to reduce the city’s output of mercury in its wastewater treatment plant, “Is not sufficiently understood to set a good budget number. We should expect more information on this by the end of the year.”

Between 2011-2013, there was no increase to the Sewer Fund. The last three years the city has levied two percent, four percent, and three percent per year for the fund.

Roth outlined his reasons for recommending a two percent raise in the Water Fund. “The increase insulates the fund from continued declining water sales, allows the Water Fund to cover system repair and improvements, and positions the fund to contribute to city priority projects.”

With two to three percent increases in the Electric Fund over the last six years, it was a pleasant surprise for the PUC board to learn that Roth didn’t see the need to increase electrical rates over the next year.

With Mike Taylor, who headed up the department, leaving to take a job elsewhere, and his replacement not sought at of this time, Roth said, “We are currently operating with a very different staff make-up than previous budgets were designed to fund.”

Roth also said electrical usage “is tracking down or has leveled off. “This is what we saw with water usage in the 1980s when water consumption became an issue, and people started to use less water.”

However, as people flipped a switch (off) on using electricity, Roth said that in the industry it isn’t seen as a long-term trend.

For now, said Roth, he will oversee the department, and the city will operate with two linemen.

“After our new staffing arrangement is settled, we will look at adding either a supervisor or an apprentice to the department,” said Roth.

PUC projects for the future include possible moving overhead power lines underground that are located along Highway 61 in conjunction with the 2019 MnDOT Highway 61 project, as well as replacing piping underground where needed and even some storm sewers if necessary.

Roth also said new electronic meters for water and electricity would be installed sometime in the next few years. With about 600 water meters and 1,200 electrical meters, the city will have to budget for these replacements. 

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