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Water rates increase

Contributing writer

Water rates will increase beginning Jan. 1. At the Oct. 5 meeting, the council approved a minimum rate increase from $12 to $15 per month per hookup. The cost of water per 1,000 gallons above the minimum will increase from $3 to $4.

Water supervisor Verlin Sommerfeld compared Durham’s water bill with Hillsboro’s and rural water district rates. If charged at Hillsboro’s rates, the bill would have been about double, he said. The rural water district rates were significantly higher.

“I think our goal should be to make $1,000 per month,” Tom Harmon said. The city has ongoing expenses that include replacing fire hydrants and resurfacing streets every four years.

“I wonder if we should use that money for streets or raise taxes.” Sommerfeld asked. The council agreed that using water fees for streets could be appropriate, since renters and property owners use the streets.

The council discussed necessary action when a water customer moves without notice and the length of time to continue to bill. Consensus was to disconnect the meter when the customer moves.

Water usage in September was 301,000 gallons pumped and 286,000 gallons sold for a 4.78 percent loss. Lift pumps ran 38 hours.

“I think that low of a loss percentage is unusual,” Sommerfeld said. “We are doing very well there.” He said he was concerned about a fire hydrant by the bank building that does not drain when shut off, which could cause the hydrant to freeze and break. A repair kit could be purchased for $500 but the hydrant cannot be dismantled without a $700 wrench. A new hydrant could cost $1,300 plus a valve and other parts for a total of $2,100.

“I strongly recommend putting in a new hydrant,” Sommerfeld said. The council agreed and approved a new hydrant.

Mayor Mike Sorenson reported that the county agreed to pay $3,000 on an $11,000 project to facilitate street drainage. County equipment also could be used, at no cost to the city, to do dirt work.

Some residents are concerned about a dead tree in a vacant lot owned by a non-resident. It was determined that if the tree is removed, the property owner should be billed. Someone will be hired to remove the tree.

The city has until March to pass a flood plain ordinance already on the table.

“We must draw up an ordinance or we cannot get any help from FEMA if we ever have a disaster,” city clerk Joyce Medley said.

Medley suggested the council study it to see what could be eliminated. Harmon suggested the ordinance be passed as is or give it to the city or county attorney to review.

The council approved the submission.

Bills approved for payment included $305 for budget preparation, $123 for repairs to a merry-go-round in the park, $80 for labor to the merry-go-round, and $65 for a water protection fee.

Last modified Oct. 13, 2010

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