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Cloverdale faces sewer rate hike

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Because bids for Cloverdale's soon-to-be wastewater facility came in higher than the town believed they would, residents of the town could be facing another increase in sewer rates in January.

At Tuesday's meeting, the council voted in favor of amending ordinance 2006-5, which called for the fixing of rates and charges to be collected by the town from property owners served by the sewage works.

The original ordinance, voted on earlier this year, called for rates and charges of the sewage works to be split in two phases. New wastewater rates went into effect in Cloverdale on July 1 and different rates were scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1.

However, the board learned in November that bids for the wastewater facility came in higher than expected, causing much concern.

On Tuesday, the council met with Krohn and Associates representative James Treat to amend the original ordinance.

The council has scheduled a public hearing for 6:30 p.m., Dec. 28, for residents to give opinions on the rate changes and to finalize approval of the rate changes.

Treat said his agency managed to acquire an additional loan of $720,000 to help pay for the new wastewater project. The original estimated cost for the facility called for $2 million in construction.

"We were very, very fortunate to find this extra money," Treat said at Tuesday's meeting.

Treat informed the council members Tuesday that the loan would call for an addition in the yearly payment of $52,000-$53,000.

Despite believing the bids were too high in November, the council voted in favor of accepting a bid from Bowen Engineering, estimated at $2.71 million, subject to final financing on the project.

However, because the town voted in favor of amending the original ordinance, sewer rates for town residents could go up.

Based on the original ordinance, town residents that use 2,000 gallons of water per month would see an increase of nearly $7 on their monthly bill in the first phase of the increase. The original ordinance called for an additional increase of nearly $5 per month in the second phase of the project.

However, the amended ordinance now calls for an additional increase of almost $3 when the second phase of the project kicks in next month.

Prior to the original ordinance, town residents using 2,000 gallons of water monthly paid $15.93. The first phase called for the rate to increase to $22.79 and the second phase was expected to see that total increase to $29.74.

However, because the ordinance had to be amended, residents using 2,000 gallons of water monthly will pay $32.18 beginning Jan. 1, an increase of $2.44.

Council members were pleased to be able to find additional money for the project.

"That was a great Christmas present," Council President Don Sublett said.

"It's all going to come together," Treat added. "It's going to get done, and that's the important thing."

Meanwhile, Triad and Associates representative Mike Hunter met with the board Tuesday regarding Bowen Engineering possibly lowering the project cost from its original estimate.

Hunter had agreed with the council in November to discuss the item with the engineering firm. He, along with Sublett and Town Utility Manager Mike Gray spoke with Bowen Engineering regarding cutting costs.

On Tuesday, he approached the board saying that Bowen had agreed to deduct some of the cost from its original estimation.

Hunter told the board that Bowen had agreed to shave off nearly $81,000 from its original proposal. Items Bowen agreed to shave cost on included:

-- Deleting all site asphalt, estimated at $40,000,

-- Deleting all final grading and seeding, estimated at $1,520,

-- Deleting a new masonry building, estimated at $61,500,

-- Deleting the demolition of existing structures, estimated at $21,660,

-- Deleting finishes in the existing building, estimated at $10,780, and

-- Deleting lab cabinets along the west wall of the new lab, estimated at $10,800.

Despite the deletions from the proposal, board member John Davis expressed concern.

"Some of these savings are kind of misleading," he said, adding that some of the deleted items would have to be completed "eventually."

Hunter said the company's proposal Tuesday called for the construction of two new wood post framed buildings for the facility, estimated at $65,500.

Sublett said the work could be done eventually by town employees or independent contractors.

Board member Judy Whitaker then expressed concern that Sublett had sought bids from local contractors for items such as cabinets.

Sublett said he was asked by Bowen to do so, but Davis said that should have been done by Bowen, to which Sublett agreed.

Still, Board Vice President Dennis Padgett said cutting costs for the community was a top priority.

"I think if we can save this community money, we should do it," Padgett said.

"Where are you saving the town money," Davis asked.

Still, the board voted in favor of the cost-cutting measure, by a 3-2 vote, with Davis and Whitaker voting no.

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