City reworks water and sewer rate increases

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

McCOOK, Nebraska -- The McCook City Council reduced their previously approved 3.5 percent water and sewer rate increases for the upcoming fiscal year, prior to the item's second of three required readings, Monday evening. Following discussion prompted by input from citizens, councilors unanimously approved a water rate increase of 1.75 percent and a sewer rate increase of 3.25 percent.

Prior to deciding on the rate increase amount, Utility Director Jesse Dutcher explained to councilors that the water enterprise fund was in better financial condition than the sewer enterprise fund, as it received volume and directly related revenue spikes due to the dry summer. Dutcher said that revenue for the sewer department remained very consistent, but expenses regularly increased every year, leading to a higher need in the sewer department for rate increases to keep the fund balanced.

The fiscal year 2012-13 McCook City Budget was approved on final reading. The budget included a rare decrease in city taxes, with councilors approving a reduction in the land-line telephone occupation tax from 3 percent to 1.5 percent, after initially proposing to increase it to 6 percent. That reduction was similarly described during an August meeting as resulting from citizen feedback.

Prior to approval, the budget was amended to apply $3,500 for wildlife services, previously provided by Red Willow County.

Mayor Dennis Berry expressed his disappointment with county commissioner comments pertaining to the cancellation of the service. Berry said commissioners indicated that they would look at again providing wildlife services to the rest of the county if the City of McCook picked up the expense within their city limits. Berry said he hoped the county would again fund the service for all county residents and felt the commissioners' stance shortchanged the citizens of McCook, who, Berry noted, are also county residents.

The wildlife service is commonly used to assist with wildlife at McCook airport, as well as with homeowners who experience bat and other animal issues.

The budget included applying $80,000 of uncommitted sales tax funds to improve bathrooms at Kelley Park, $35,000 for improving bathrooms at Karrer Park, $5,000 for tree improvements at McCook cemeteries and another $100,000 was approved to be used to buy down city sewer loans.

A proposed water slide project at McCook city pool, which was budgeted for $180,000, is not looking as if it will become reality. Public Works Director Kyle Potthoff informed councillors the project price had again increased and would now exceed the budgeted amount, just for basic equipment.

The project was initially approved in 2011 for $125,000 and increased to $180,000 later that year. After hearing Potthoff's assessment of the project and disappointment in the climbing price, councilors applied $50,000 of the water slide budget to buy down sewer debt and asked Potthoff to look into other water-type projects that could be done at a lower expense.

Prior to approving the budget and employee pay plan, councilors entered executive session for a strategy session pertaining to "potential litigation regarding solid waste disposal," according to the meeting agenda.

Councilors subsequently amended the employee pay plan to include a new, previously undiscussed, full time tractor-trailer operator position that would require a CDL. Councilors announced the position would not be filled and was "just in case."

The 2012-13 Fiscal Year Employee Classification Pay Plan which was approved included a 2.5 percent city-wide employee wage increase, which equates to an $80,357 annual increase. That amount will also be combined with $80,520 in merit increases and additional longevity increases.

Other items on the consent and regular agenda:

A second executive session was coordinated at the end of the meeting for another strategy session pertaining to the real estate purchase for the cation waste disposal system.

Councilors appointed 15 members to the Downtown Planning Steering Committee. The committee will assist RDG Planning and Design of Omaha in developing a revitalization plan for the downtown area that will utilize a $350,000 CDBG grant. Those appointed included Troy Bruntz, Matt Sehnert, Shelby Haag, Cody Dame, Cloyd Clark, Bruce Hoffman, Renea Smith, Donna Bates, Jennifer Morgan, Tacie Fawver, Rex Nelson, Carol Schlegel, Jeff Gross and Ray Walter. Mayor Dennis Berry volunteered as the city council representative on the committee, in addition to City Manager Jeff Hancock, Public Works Director Kyle Potthoff and Utility Director Jesse Dutcher.

A contract between the city and RDG Planning and Design, detailing the scope of their services during the downtown revitalization project, was approved without discussion. RDG Planning and Design will receive a fee not to exceed $37,200 for the project, the majority of which will be funded via a CDBG grant that city staff obtained. Cost to the city for the planning project is anticipated to be $9,300, of the total $39,300 project.

A request from the McCook Area Chamber of Commerce to conduct various Heritage Days activities in McCook on Sept. 27, 29 and 30, 2012, was approved. The request was amended to limit the closure of the 200 block of East H Street to the first half of the block, in order to avoid resident access issues raised previously.

The Mayor's annual appointment of individuals to several area advisory boards was ratified. The appointments included reappointing Doug Skiles and Mike Kugler to the Airport Advisory Commission; reappointing Linda Taylor, Cloyd Clark and Stan Goodwin to the Community Redevelopment Authority Advisory Board; reappointing Judy Keenportz to the Housing Agency; reappointing Pam Wolford to the Library Board; reappointing Michelle Gonzales and Harry Sughroue to the Parks Advisory Board; reappointing Peggy Appleyard, Joyce Hofman and Gene Meints to the Senior Citizens Advisory Board.

An application for a special liquor license from the McCook Area Chamber of Commerce, for a Heritage Days mixer on Sept. 26 at McCook National Bank, was approved.

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