Winnebago residents will have to dig a lot deeper into their pocketbooks next year.
It’s because their monthly utility bill will be going up.
City Council members at their Tuesday meeting voted unanimously to raise water and sewer rates.
Some water users could pay as much as $50 or more each month, according to city officials.
“There’s going to be a lot of upset people and sticker shock,” says Councilman Calvin Howard.
Current base rates of $23.05 for water and $14.76 for sewer will be increasing to $32.50 and $45, respectively. The price per 1,000 gallons of water will be $5 and $10.58 for sewer.
That means a household using 4,000 gallons a month will pay $52.50 for water and $87.32 for sewer, while 3,000 gallons would be $47.50 for water and $76.74 for sewer.
New rate hikes recommended by the city’s Utility Committee were based on a number of factors, which included the impact of Corn Plus ethanol plant closing and higher debt service payments.
“Both the water and sewer enterprise funds have been running in the red for sometime and cannot continue to pay for infrastructure, employment and debt service at current rates,” says City Administrator Jake Skluzacek. “These funds are meant to be self-sustaining, so the city does not have to levy for these services.”
Although council members expressed displeasure over asking residents to pay more, they agreed they had no choice.
“It’s a harsh reality,” says Councilman Tim Hynes.
Councilman Paul Eisenmenger says the council relied on a formula from the Minnesota Rural Water Association to calculate the new rates.
“We’ve been giving away water for years, with our tier system,”he says, adding that large families will benefit under the new structure.
Two other recommendations by the Utility Committee offered lower base rates but the prices per thousand gallons of water and sewer were higher.
Skluzacek says they looked at what other towns are charging but, “it is not quite apples to apples” when comparing.
“Different populations, needs and infrastructure cannot be easily compared,” he says. “It doesn’t make sense when we are looking at Winnebago’s responsibilities relating to managing our existing infrastructure and debt.”
The rate hikes will show up on the February 2022 bill, however, residents are scheduled to pay more for garbage and recycling beginning in December.
Chris Cyphers, owner of B & B Sanitation and Recycling, and the city recently agreed to a new contract with an option for a two-year extension.
Under the agreement, garbage and recycling will cost $29.30, a monthly increase of $13.18.
“We have a three-year contract at that price,” says Cyphers. “After that, I don’t know what is going to happen.”
The new rates of $24 for garbage and $5.30 for recycling is due to the purchase of roller carts.
Cyphers says he hopes there are no shipping delays so the carts can be delivered to residents sometime in November.
Carts for garbage will have a 64-gallon capacity with a gray lid, while recycling will be a 96-gallon container with a yellow lid.
“The containers can be filled clear to the top as long as the lid can be closed shut,” he says.
Extra 32-gallon garbage bags with a maximum weight of 30 pounds can be placed outside the carts, but they must have tags that may be purchased at City Hall, Casey’s General Store, Roerig Hardware and Marketplace Foods.