Bosque Farms officials considering hike in village sewer rates

........................................................................................................................................................................................

Although a recent sewer rate workshop was sparsely attended, the Bosque Farms councilors and the four residents who stopped by were presented with a lot of information to think about.

Village of Bosque Farms residents and businesses that are hooked up to sewer aren't charged for the amount of sewage that leaves the property, but rather pay a 1:1 ratio based on the amount of water they use in a month.

"If you have water, for every dollar you pay for water, you pay a dollar for sewer," said Bosque Farms Mayor Bob Knowlton.

There is also a sewer-base fee, depending on how many grinder pumps are installed and if the customer uses village water. A residential customer with one grinder pump and water pays $21.65 a month. If they don't have water through the village, they pay a flat rate of $27.06 for a single grinder pump.

That residential customer pays a commodity fee based on the amount of water they use — $3 per thousand gallons for water usage between 5,001 and 7,000 gallons, and $4 per thousand gallons for usage of 7,001 gallons or more.

So a sewer bill for 6,500 gallons of water, which the sewer bill is calculated on, would be $19.50 plus the $21.65 base fee, for a total of $41.15 not including the fees for the water usage.

Commercial customers pay the same base rates for single grinder pumps and the same commodity fees as residential customers.

Knowlton said out of the 1,400 residential and commercial sewer hook ups in the village, between 250 and 300 grinder pumps were rebuilt or completely replaced last year.

"Last year, we spent about $220,000 rebuilding pumps and buying them new," he said. "Labor is not in that figure."

Knowlton said that averaged out to about $13 per customer per month.

"One possibility is increasing the base rates along those lines," the mayor said. "And we do have higher users and because we have an ordinance that prevents water from being used for irrigation, we have to assume that for every gallon of water they are using, one gallon is going into the sewer."

And with the average rebuild cost at $880 per pump, Knowlton said the council could consider directly assigning the costs of rebuilds and new pumps to the user.

Knowlton said the village has historically kept base rates low to account for the high number of seniors on limited income.

The average number of users for a 12-month period show the majority of users consume between 1,000 and 5,999 gallons. Use falls off between 6,000 and 9,999 gallons, but spikes up in the 10,000 to 14,999 gallon category before falling off again.

Councilor Dolly Wallace said there were new pumps on the market, with a design that would keep the grinder pump motors out of the sewage.

If a house or business is empty and the grinder pump sits in an unflushed sewage system, eventually the sewage begins to eat through the motor casing and causes damage.

Knowlton said the newer pumps were definitely something the village should look into, but cautioned that the new design might require a retrofit of the underground can the pump sits in causing additional cost.

Between all the costs associated with running and repairing the system, the village needs to clear more than $700,000 a year in revenues in its sewer fund.

The municipal water and sewer operations, called "enterprise funds," are expected to be self sustaining.

Knowlton said it's also recommended that municipal sewer departments have a working capital goal of 15 percent of its operating budget. For Bosque Farms, that would be around $110,000.

About 8.5 million gallons of water, and by translation sewer, is used monthly by residential customers, the mayor said.

The remaining usage comes from commercial customers, churches, schools and the municipality itself.

"That's only about 3 percent of the usage. Messing around with those rates won't do a lot," Knowlton said.

He said the bulk of the rate adjustments needed to be done on the residential side of the equation.

Village resident Cathy Hain asked what would happen to rates if the village started processing sewage from the neighboring town of Peralta. The town is in the process of planning a sewage system for businesses and residents, and officials want to hook into Bosque Farms' existing treatment system.

Knowlton said the governing body feels strongly that, if Peralta does deliver sewage, it should not cost Bosque Farms a dime.

"We are going to have to set a rate schedule for them. We are working to get the money to add a clarifier and process the additional sludge," Knowlton said. "Those things are going to save the village money ultimately but need to improve for Peralta, too."

Village Councilor Wayne Ake said Peralta residents needed to pay the village for the existing infrastructure.

"All of us here have paid for that down there and we are still paying for it," Ake said.

"We're not giving anything away," Knowlton said.

He added that the rate structure for Peralta should contribute to the village's working capital goal for the sewer system.

Village Clerk/Administrator Gayle Jones said the village is paying about $89,000 a year on the loan for the sewer system. Those payments are scheduled to continue until 2034.


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.