Port council signs off on water rate hike that could hit 45%

Officials who note that city must seek steep increase are worried that PSC will make it even more painful
Ozaukee Press staff

The Port Washington Common Council on Tuesday agreed to apply for a 40% to 45% increase in the city’s water rates over the next two years.

“I don’t think there’s anyone in the community who’s really excited about this,” Mayor Ted Neitzke said. “I’m not looking forward to the new water rates. This is what we need.”

The rate increase could add $17 to the average resident’s bimonthly water bill in each of the next two years, officials said.

But City Engineer Roger Strohm warned that while the city is seeking a 40% to 45% increase, the Public Service Commission could increase that amount.

The city’s request calls for a 3% rate of return while the PSC typically looks for a 5% to 6% rate of return — something that could hike the rate increase to 70% to 80% — Strohm said.

He suggested that residents concerned about this possibility put their comments in writing and submit them to the city so they can be forwarded to the PSC to help persuade it to accept the lower rate of return.

Water Supt. Dan Fisher noted that there is a comment form on the water utility’s website that can be used for this purpose.

The PSC could make a decision on the increase by mid-summer, officials said.

Ald. John Sigwart questioned why the PSC uses a 6% rate of return, which Strohm said essentially indicates how quickly the city can repay the loan it needs to finance the water projects.

The upcoming rate increase isn’t the only change to Port’s water bills that residents should anticipate next year.

Strohm said the utility is considering changing from bimonthly bills to quarterly bills, in part to reduce administrative costs.

That, too, would require PSC approval.

And the sewer charge, which makes up about half of residents’ water bills, will go up 7.2% effective Jan. 1, adding $6.46 to the bimonthly bill.

That increase will finance upgrades to the wastewater plant, including an emergency generator, phosphorus analyzer, blower replacement and other items.

The water rate increase is needed to  pay for $18.3 million in upgrades to the water plant needed to meet a Department of Natural Resources mandate to meet current codes and address deficiencies, primarily regarding backup power and needed changes to the clearwell, that had been grandfathered by the state in the past.

The work, which is expected to extend the life of the plant by 25 to 30 years, includes building a new 500,000-gallon above-ground water reservoir on the south side of the plant, installing an ultraviolet light disinfection system and an emergency generator.

It would also replace equipment that’s at the end of its life, officials said, noting much of the equipment is at least 50 years old and some is more than 70 years old.

The project includes building an addition to the current plant that will take up much of the area just south of the existing facility.



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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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