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City Utilities bills to go up slightly in 2014

Wednesday, May 8, 2013 - 7:07 am

Most residential City Utilities water customers will see their bills go up about $2.50 a month starting Jan. 1 as a result of action taken by City Council on Tuesday night.

The increase is due to a change in the way firefighting infrastructure is paid for. To have enough water and pressure to fight fires, the city has to "oversize" the infrastructure with bigger pipes and oversized pumps than what is needed for regular residential and business use.

In the past that portion of fire protection – $3.5 million annually – was paid to City Utilities through property taxes.

However, state-imposed property tax caps have financially strapped the city. Mayor Tom Henry in 2012 created a Fiscal Policy Group to come up with ideas on how to continue providing city services with the loss in revenue from the tax caps.

City controller Pat Roller explained that one recommendation from the Fiscal Policy Group was to move the fire protection fees from property taxes to the City Utilities budget, effectively asking rate payers, not taxpayers, to pay.

That frees up the $3.5 million in property taxes to be used for other city services.

Councilman Mitch Harper, R-4th, noted that it was a change that could have been made four years ago.

Council unanimously approved the change.

Secant contract passes

Council approved a contract for $373,600 with Secant Group for engineering services on an as-needed basis to assist with City Utilities growth, expansion and acquisition for 2013 and 2014.

The bill was tabled three weeks ago when Harper asked for clarification on the status of the business. At that time Council attorney Joseph Bonahoom said online records indicated Secant was administratively dissolved in 2008.

Tuesday night Secant president Ted Nitza and his attorney said Secant is now in good standing with the Secretary of State as an LLC.

The contract was approved 7-2, with Harper and Russ Jehl, R-2nd, voting no.

Harper brought up another issue Tuesday night, saying he discovered when the 2012 sewer ordinance was rewritten the document repealed the 2009 rates but replaced them with "nothing."

City Utilities Director Kumar Menon said, "We will take care of it."

Dupont widening

Council approved funding for preliminary engineering on the widening of Dupont Road between Lima and Coldwater roads, a project not expected to begin until 2015. Dupont will be expanded to two lanes in each direction with a center turn lane where needed and a grassy median in other areas.

The project is expected to cost $12.3 million, said city engineer Shan Gunawardena, with 80 percent paid for with federal funds.

The road will be expanded to the north and south, and will be elevated over the Pufferbelly Trail, so people using it won't have to cross busy Dupont Road.