Top users getting a break on water rates
by Rick DeClue · News · March 01, 2013

The West Branch City Council agreed Feb. 19 to eliminate a portion of scheduled water rate increases for the town’s largest users.

The change affects monthly usage in excess of 250,000 gallons per meter per month. Rates for usage up to the 250,000 gallon level will continue to be subject to the city’s scheduled increases through 2017.

The vote was two to one, with Council members Mark Worrell and Dan O’Neil voting yes and members Colton Miller and Jordan Ellyson abstaining.

City attorney Kevin Olson said that constitutes a two to one vote under state law.

City Administrator Matt Muckler said that his recent analysis showed that the city has, in effect, been subsidizing rates for smaller users at the expense of the largest users of the city’s water system.

It was noted that Hames’ West Branch Village Mobile Home Park, by far the city’s largest user, used 14 percent of the city’s water, but paid 26 percent of the city’s water revenue.

Muckler showed that, based on 2012 usage, the change meant a maximum 8-percent reduction per year in projected annual revenues, or $19,656, in 2017.

The city has four large users of over 250,000 gallons per month:

• Hames West Branch Village Mobile Homes – this property is billed as a single user

• Plastic Products

• West Branch High School

• Crestview Nursing and Rehab Center

For Hames, the change means a potential savings of up to $17,400 per year by 2017. For Crestview, the savings would only be $59 per year for the amount of water it uses over the large-user threshold.

At the previous meeting, council member Colton Miller raised the question of how rates for West Branch compared with surrounding communities. Miller also manages the Hames property.

Muckler conducted a survey of seven comparable communities ranging geographically from Wilton to Williamsburg. His survey included any announced increases such as those planned for West Branch through 2017.

Comparison of minimum or the lowest volume users at 1,700 gallons per month showed that West Branch has the lowest rates currently, $8.89 versus up to $18 for Tipton. With all announced rate increases included, West Branch remains in the middle for lowest volume users with rates of $13.24 in 2017 versus Solon’s $9.86 low and Tiffin’s $18 high for 1,700 gallons.

For average volume users of 4,000 gallons per month, West Branch is currently closer to the lowest rate of $15 for Williamsburg than the highest rate of $29.96 for West Liberty. For average users in 2017, West Branch shows the highest rate at $31.16 for 4,000 gallons versus a low of $15 for Williamsburg.

Muckler stressed, however, it is likely that most or all of the cities of Kalona, Solon, Tipton and Williamsburg will need to consider rate increases between now and 2017.

Worrell was presiding over the meeting in place of Mayor Pro Tem Jim Oaks, who was absent.

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