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Wayland City sewer rate increases to begin July 1

City of Wayland residents will absorb an increase in sewer rates, beginning July 1, for the first time in a dozen years.

City Manager Josh Eggleston acknowledged that a plan to correct the rates for the first time since 2010 is aggressive, but added, “These rates have to be reflective of the true cost of the facilities.”

The City Council did not take action on a proposed ordinance to raise rates, but held the first reading after a public hearing in which no representatives of the public were present.

There are two kinds of sewer rates — the block rate, which currently is $12.42 per month, and a commodity, or use, rate of $3.57 per thousand gallons for small households.

The new rates:

• For households with 2,000 gallons, for one or two occupants, $19 per month and $5 per 1,000 gallons of use.

• For 4,500 gallons, an average family household, from $28.04 to $41.50 per month.

• For larges households with 7,000 gallons, current rate of $37.40 per month to $54.

• For large, mostly commercial and industrial, two-inch meters for 50,000 gallons, current rate of $240.60, bumped to $351.27 per month.

Eggleston told council members he believes the increases are affordable to most customers.

After the first three years of the rate increases plan, the proposal is for a 3% annual increase to attempt to account for inflation.

The city manager, anticipating opposition from some customers, insisted this is a necessary step for the city to insure the future of the service.

He said some have insisted Wayland has a high rate by comparison with other nearby municipalities, but “comparing our rate to others is largely irrelevant due to the very localized nature of utilities and their design. It’s almost impossible to have two systems that are completely the same, which makes comparing them difficult.”
Eggleston said he has examined rates and systems for West Michigan cities and townships and noted, “If you see an outlier with cheap rates, they probably haven’t changed them in a while, but they’ll have to pay the piper (down the road)… Nobody has come up with an alternative plan (to the rate increases).”

He acknowledged the city has more than a million dollars in its sewer fund balance, but “The longer we wait on this decision, the more painful it’s going to be.”

City Water and Sewer Supt. Ben Bachelder added that it’s likely that the state, within the next couple of decades, will be stablishing guidelines on running a public sewer system.

In other business Monday, the City Council:

• Agreed to pay Action Awning of Wayland to put up a new awning at City Hall to replace the aging and tattered one.

• Approved a health savings account for city employees with the Priority Health health maintenance insurance organization.

• Approved Mayor Tim Bala’s appointments of Justin Osbon and Bradley Vanderson to the Downtown Development Aauthority Board.

• Was told by Bachelder that city officials have met with the developer of a new residential neighborhood to try to correct drainage problems found after last Wednesday’s torrential rains and learned the city received a bad batch of asphalt that it applied over spring break to pot holes. A number of citizens’ complaints has been fielded and corrective action is promised.

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