Commission declines to raise city’s water rates
Iolans will begin paying a monthly charge for stormwater collections, although Iola commissioners declined to touch the city’s water rates and the admission fees to the Iola Municipal Pool.
Commissioners voted 2-1 to institute the $2-per-month stormwater surcharge on Iolans’ utility bills.
The surcharge will go to maintenance of Iola’s aging stormwater collection system, City Administrator Judy Brigham said.
The stormwater facilities — like Iola’s water lines — were installed in the early 20th century.
And it’s only a matter of time before the state or federal government toughens stormwater collection systems for towns Iola’s size, Brigham said.
The monthly fee would generate about $91,000 annually, not nearly enough to pay for large-scale improvements all at once, Brigham acknowledged. But it would give the city opportunity to build up a reserve.
Up to now, any maintenance of the stormwater system came from Iola’s general fund.
Mayor Bill Maness and Commissioner Bill Shirley voted to install the surcharge. Commissioner Craig Abbott was opposed.
THE COMMISSION was less enthusiastic about increasing Iola’s water rates.
Last changed in 2005, the revenue for the water fund has gradually decreased over the past few years because Iolans, by and large, are using less water, Brigham said.
“And our water fund is not keeping up with the cost,” she said. “We can’t continue to operate as is.”
Lower water usage is not unique to Iola, Brigham said. Other communities across the country are experiencing less water revenue as citizens cut back on usage.
Brigham proposed a 10-percent rate hike for water users, which would cost a small household about $2.18, a typical family about $4.56 and a large industry about $632 a month.
Abbott suggested the city look at any possible options to streamline costs.
“I don’t know that we’re doing everything we can to keep our costs down,” Abbott said. “I will not support a water rate hike.”
Maness, meanwhile, suggested the city look at cuts in other areas — perhaps a one-half percent cut in all other department budgets — to subsidize the water fund.
Shirley asked Brigham to provide the Commission a detailed spread sheet to illustrate how the lower water usage has hit the water fund reserves.