Water and sewer rates remain a topic for the Arlington Village Board of Trustees. The board is proposing a rate increase of $3 for water and $3 for sewer. An ordinance will needed to be drafted and approved three straight months.
Chairman Paul Krause said the board may consider the increase over a two-year period.
"We've got expenses coming in from Fremont and an increase in our sewage fees and yearly contract increases from everyone," Krause said.
Arlington resident Eric Nicola asked the board about the bond for the water treatment plant.
Krause said the bond associated with the water treatment plant was paid off. Another bond is for the sewer and is still in payments.
"We had the one paid off and obviously everyone thinks when that payment goes away our expenses go away," he said. "Two years ago, we had exterior painting of the water tower. Raising rates is nothing we want."
Nicola believes the payment should be decreased.
"If the bond payment goes away the cost decreases," he said. "There's no way around that."
Krause said the expense that the village had for the bond goes away but there is still expenses for the maintenance.
Nicola said if the money coming in was sufficient before and you take a payment out of that, the money coming in should still be sufficient.
Krause said the reserve has been shrinking for the last 12-15 months because the village is not keeping in front of the expenses.
"Every year, we have a contractural increase with the company that does our water and sewer — PeopleService. We don't account for that in the water rate increases until it's time to do that," Krause said.
Krause said one of his suggestions was that the village do an annual increase to try and keep in front of our salaries, contracted services and supplies that go up.
"Everyone's expenses go up on everything," he said.
Nicola said he understand expenses rise but wondered why Arlington's cost was so much higher than everyone else.
Krause said other towns are finding it's expensive to have their own plant.
"I know that Scribner just got an increase, others that are contracting out their services are having the same problem," Krause said.
Nicola encouraged the board to figure out where money can be cut.
"I'm looking at this list of expenses and I don't see a lot of things that seem to be outrageous," Krause said.
Krause empathized with Nicola.
"I feel your pain. I really do. I sat in that same chair in the old days. I complained about water rates and that was the one thing that made me want to get on the board was to try and lower the water bills," Krause said. "But when you get here and look at the expenses, there doesn't seem to be anywhere we can trim."
Board member Jason Wiese said the village is operating $37,813 at a loss right now in water.
"We don't have the money to pay the bills essentially out of that," he said.
Krause said the board will look to add more money to the budget to find the infiltration and the leaks. The village has advertised to inspect homes that have sump pumps in their basements.
"It's against village ordinance to have a sump pump go into the sewer line and that is a huge expense,” he said.
Krause said the village gets raised numbers out of the sewer plant when there is a rain.
"So we are thinking there's either water coming in the old lines or people's basements are getting pumped in there," he said. "Since I've been on the board, I know we have increased the budget for looking for these leaks. I think we are going to try to double it this year to look for leaks and repairing manholes. Sewer fees coming from what we send to Fremont."
Krause said the board is budgeting $70,000 for the interior work.
"When it comes to the water system there are some things you just can't put off," he said. "If we don't pass an interior paint inspection we could lose our water license."
Nicola questioned the need for taking out bonds for everything.
"We haven't taken out any bonds on the water or sewer system in the last 10 years," Krause said. "We are trying to keep our expenses with what we have covered with our rates. We are hoping we can make a change by finding where water is coming into the sewer system and that is going to take time. Some of these underground leaks we just can't find. That's not the only thing but we are hoping it will help."