Albert Lea council to consider water rate increase

Published 7:00 pm Thursday, November 23, 2017

Albert Lea taxpayers face a 7-percent increase in their water rate for the next year.

The monthly water and sewer utility bill for an average residential home is expected to increase from $54.29 to $55.96 — $1.67. For the entire year, the increase is expected to be about $20, a 3.1 percent jump from last year. The sewer rate is not expected to increase.

The fund covers the city’s water infrastructure, including maintenance of pipes in streets, as well as water pumps, wells and water towers.

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Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams said the increase is similar to recent increases and is due to the water fund needing more money in case of an emergency.

“We’ve got so many water infrastructure projects, it’s pretty critical that we keep it maintained so we don’t have a lot of water main breaks, or if we have an emergency, that we have the funding to pay for it without having to borrow a lot of dollars,” he said.

The city plans to replace the water tower near City Hall.

“We’ll be looking this winter over the feasibility of taking that down and then building another new water tower that’s going to be at a more appropriate area and at the appropriate elevation,” Adams said. 

Second Ward Councilor Larry Baker said though he would rather see a lesser increase, he realizes the 7 percent rise needs to occur so needed infrastructure work can take place.

As an enterprise fund, the water fund must not operate at a revenue loss, Baker said, because the money would then need to come either through a steeper general fund levy increase or through bonding.

“The reality is, it has to come from somewhere,” Baker said.

The final rate is expected to be set at the Dec. 11 Albert Lea City Council meeting. The council is expected to review the city’s financial management plan Monday at a study session before its 7 p.m. council meeting.

City staff are expected to recommend a 1.14 percent tax levy increase next month for street projects. The levy is expected to increase taxes $15.74 on a $100,000 home in the community. Under the increase, taxes would rise from more than $630 to about $645.

Baker said the debt levy increase reflects the infrastructure projects the city undertook this year, noting his belief the council has tried to keep property tax increases to a minimum level.

“It’s not that we want to do this, it’s something that we need to do,” he said.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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