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Germantown hesitant to raise water rates

Village Board debates water usage, fees

July 2, 2013

Germantown — Though there are some concerns over water capacity in Germantown, the Village Board was hesitant about raising rates to potentially fund a new well.

On Monday, Public Works Director Dan Ludwig asked that the Village Board consider a rate increase or select PSC or a consultant to perform a full water rate study to determine the need of additional municipal water in light of a recent spike in usage. Based on a 2010 full water rate study, which are good for five years, the Village Board is allowed to raise water utility rates by 3 percent over the next two years.

Construction of a shallow well costs roughly $600,000 or a deep well roughly $2.3 million. The water utility does not have enough cash on hand for either type of well, according to village documents. By raising the water utility rates over the next two years, a small amount of money could be set aside for engineering costs for a new well, Ludwig said.

The board was hesitant to approve any rate increases and sent the item back to the Public Works and Highways Committee for further discussion. The item has been at the committee once already. Any decision would then have to come back to the Village Board for final approval.

An increase in water usage by Gehl Foods prompted the discussion of whether or not the village has enough water in case of an emergency. If Gehl Foods is using a million gallons a day during a drought and heavy fire, the water utility could be at capacity, Ludwig said.

"There is that small probability, very thin, but it's there," he said. "We could exceed our capacity."

Trustee Terri Kaminski said that the Public Works Committee collectively felt they were overreacting to the one-time spike in water usage at Gehl. She said usage should be studied over the next six months and rates should not be raised over one incident.

Village Trustee Al Vanderheiden said a "simple increase of 3 percent" the next two years is not that simple.

A 3 percent increase amounts to about $40 per year. It would raise $40,000 for a new well, which would only be preliminary funds, Ludwig said.

Vanderheiden said they need to look at how they are billing for water usage and if it needs to be targeted more toward commercial versus residential usage. Type of usage can be looked at in a rate study.

Trustee Art Zabel said if a new well is constructed it would be future development. He suggested the possibility of an impact fee for those building in Germantown as opposed to increasing rates for the people already in the village. Village President Dean Wolter cautioned the board about creating a deterrent for businesses looking to move to Germantown.

Wolter supported the decision of sending the item back to the committee to have a better understanding of the issue.

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