Marquette water, sewer fee adjustments proposed

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By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

Marquette’s water and sewer committee presented a recommendation for utility rate and service fee adjustments at the March 14 city council meeting.

An independent study, said councilwoman Pam Brodie-Fitzgerald, recently found the city “is severely under-budgeted for what it charges for water and sewer.”

Over the years, Brodie-Fitzgerald said, the fund has been supported by revenue from the boat. Over time, however, that has declined. Plus, she added, the fund is supposed to take care of itself.

An ordinance amendment proposes monthly rates for water service include a base fee of $3 and $.00725 per gallon for one or more gallons of water used. The base fee shall be charged to all premises served with water service whether the service is utilized or not.

The ordinance currently lists the monthly water rate as a $6.60 minimum bill for up to 1,000 gallons, then $.00534 per gallon over 1,000 gallons.

For sewer service fees, the ordinance amendment proposes a base fee of $8.25 and $.00625 per gallon for one or more gallons of water consumed. The base fee shall be charged to all premises served with sewer service whether the service is utilized or not.

The ordinance currently lists the sewer fee charges as a $13.50 minimum bill for the first 2,000 gallons used per month, then $.00604 per gallon over 2,000 gallons.

Brodie-Fitzgerald said the proposed changes will result in lower bills for people who use less water, such as Marquette’s older residents. For those who use more water, the base rate will be down, but they will pay more for what they actually use, she stated. 

The proposed adjustments would be the first made by the city since 2008.

“If we don’t start doing something, it’s going to become a bigger problem,” said mayor Larry Breuer. “No one likes to pay more, but gaming revenues are going down, and we have to start planning for that. If we do a little now and see where we’re at, then we can adjust it again.”

“We can go six months to a year and see how it looks,” remarked city administrator Denise Schneider. Breaking even isn’t the city’s only consideration, she added; they also need to start putting money away for future projects.

Public works director Jason Sullivan said reservoir repairs (estimated $180,000) and waste water treatment maintenance (estimated $50,000), along with treatment for the Timber Ridge well, will all need to be addressed.

Council members Brodie-Fitzgerald, Cindy Halvorson, Steve Eagle and Eleanor Soulli voted to approve the first reading of the ordinance amending the code in regard to the water and sewer rates. They also voted “yes” to waive the second reading. 

Councilman John Ries voted “no” on both accounts, stating, “I think the city could find other places to find $5,000 to $10,000 instead of this.”

Since the ordinance was not passed that night, Breuer said residents will have an opportunity to understand the proposed changes.

“People need to see what the future holds with the reservoir and the casino,” Halvorson added.

Brodie-Fitzgerald said she welcomes anyone with questions about the proposed adjustments to contact her.

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