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Granite Falls Advocate Tribune - Granite Falls, MN
  • Clarkfield council stands pat on sewer rates, talks alternative policing options

  • The Clarkfield City Council decided to hold pat on water and sewer rates for 2013; voting unanimously to maintain the recently created rate schedule, though the recently adopted water and sewer ordinance calls for an automatic three precent raise to rates if no council action is taken.Councilman Dave Biermaier brought fo...
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  • The Clarkfield City Council decided to hold pat on water and sewer rates for 2013; voting unanimously to maintain the recently created rate schedule, though the recently adopted water and sewer ordinance calls for an automatic three precent raise to rates if no council action is taken.
    Councilman Dave Biermaier brought forward the motion noting the fee schedule measures in the water and sewer ordinance that the city passed this fall. Those measures state that water and sewer fees will be automatically raised by three percent each year if the council takes no action to adjust the rates.
    The current rate for water usage is $28/month base rate with $4.23 per 1000 gal. of water usage.
    As the city only adopted the new fee schedule this year to coincide with their switch to a new monthly billing cycle, Biermaier thought it best to leave the rates as they are for another year and the council unanimously agreed.
    Clarkfield has recently completed sweeping updates to their management of water and sewer services. Recently, City Administrator Scott Weske reported that the city is completed with their installation of new automatic-read water meters. With the new meters the city has also updated their billing schedule and the associated metering and billing computer software, which track all of Clarkfield's roughly 440 water hook-ups.
    In his regular report to the council, Weske said that he's been spending some of his time recently correcting the computer data for the new system, but he's now on the second billing cycle with the new system and there have been relatively few problems.
    To facilitate the changes to the city's water and sewer service, the city council has done a full update to the ordinances that govern water and sewer management those ordinances outline this billing and payment schedule:
    Meters will be read electronically by the twenty-fifth of each month, or on the closest business day. Bills should be in the hands of customers by the first of each month. After 20 days of non-payment, or on the twentieth of the month, that bill will be considered past due. If past due, a notice will be mailed. Ten days after a bill is past due, shutoff of water services will occur.
    The city expects $281,200 in water and sewer revenue in 2013 and nearly $168,555 in expense.
    Clarkfield Police
    For the second time in as many years the City of Clarkfield is questioning their need for a city police department and threatening the job of Clarkfield Police Chief Ian Hodge.
    At Tuesday's meeting the matter was briefly discussed in reference to a meeting being held Wednesday between Clarkfield Mayor Gene Kockelman, councilman Dave Biermaier and the Upper Sioux Police Department. The purpose of that meeting is to discuss the city possibly contracting with the agency for police services.
    Page 2 of 2 - A year ago the city went through the same motions before deciding to cut the department from two full-time officers to one-and-a-half.
    The city council has always tried to frame discussion on the topic as a budgetary matter, but criticism of Hodge and his administration of the department has been building from within the council.
    Budget/Truth in Taxation
    It's coming down to budgetary crunch time and at Tuesday's meeting Clarkfield City Administrator Scott Weske presented the working 2013 budget and some ideas to streamline it. Chief among these ideas is the adoption of a capital improvement plan to help the city better budget for the future and minimize the impact of expenditures such as new vehicle and equipment purchases.
    The estimated levy amount for 2013 is currently $326,480 which represents a 2.4 percent increase from last year's final levy amount of $318,766. Of that amount, $205,005 will be entered into the city's general fund, while $70,384 will go towards the water and sewer fund.
    The city's expected expenses, as estimated by Weske, should be roughly $820,985, while total revenues are estimated at $1,052,806. Local Government Aid (LGA) for the city should amount to $344,785 in 2013. That amount remains unchanged for 2013 from 2012. Total debt for the city, representing street and water/sewer debt services, is $942,460.
    The final 2013 budget is due Tuesday, Dec. 18. That meeting coincides with the Truth in Taxation hearing, scheduled for the same date. The Truth in Taxation hearing will begin at 6:30 p.m.
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