City water, sewer rates could jump

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 8, 2002

Albert Lea city water and sewer rates could rise 15 to 20 percent starting in January, according to city manager Paul Sparks.

The change in rates is happening due to the loss of the Farmland plant, which was by far the biggest customer for city utilities, said Sparks.

The city council will be setting a hearing date for the rate increases at Monday night’s council meeting. It is expected they will choose Dec. 9 as the meeting to discuss the increases.

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In addition, the city will be changing the way billing is done for these utilities. The current system is quarterly. The city will be moving to a monthly schedule to help customers more easily manage the bills.

&uot;When we begin in January some people will get a one-month bill, some will get a two-month bill and some will get a three-month bill,&uot; Sparks said. This is being done so that the city can still afford to manage the utilities.

Other city business to be discussed at Monday’s meeting:

– The city council will consider a ban on leaf burning because of the excessive amount of smoke filling the air on burning dates.

The city currently has three days a week set aside for burning. An all-out ban would make the process for getting rid of leaves much different. The options for the city if there is a leaf ban are: having a large municipal compost site, a leaf-bag pick up by the city, or buying a leaf vacuum machine for the city which would clean up leaves on streets around the city.

– The council will vote on whether to accept a tentative building agreement with Wal-Mart for the company’s planned supercenter.

&uot;In their contract it is stated that they are not obligated to build a store,&uot; Sparks said. That means

Wal-Mart would be able to back out of the building project after the city has installed and paid for some of the infrastructure in the project area.

Sparks said the city has negotiated on the contract with Wal-Mart to add a provision which would require the company to pay the city for any out-of-pocket money spent on the project if the building does not go through.

According to Sparks, Wal-Mart officials have made it clear that they will be building here and that the no-obligation provision is just company policy. &uot;They have repeatedly told me, ‘We’ll build the store,’&uot; he said.

– A bid of $159,361 has been made for the installation of a liner on the sanitary sewer on Pearl Street, a project which is necessary because of the building of the courthouse addition.

The council will vote on approving the bid on Monday.

The footings laid for the courthouse will result in more pressure on the sewer lines below Pearl Street. The sewer lines, according to Sparks, will need to be hardened through the installation of a lining.

The city is unsure how to finance the project, but officials and many council members have expressed hope that the county will pay for the project because it is a result of a county project.