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Light and Water's future

Light and Water supervisor Dave Evans gave a presentation on the future of Wadena utilities at a special city council meeting on Wednesday.

Evans said that in spite of many capital projects coming up, electric rates are likely to be steady for the next few years, after a rate increase from several years ago.

Some major projects over the next several years involve converting some areas of the city from 2,400 volt systems to 7,200 volt systems. A, B and C transformers are still 2,400 volts and need to be converted.

The department is also going through underground wire projects.

FEMA will reimburse projects in the tornado zone where the storm had affected the infrastructure.

The council discussed the transition from regular incandescent light bulbs to fluorescent light bulbs and more efficient incandescent light bulbs, with mercury concerns about fluorescent light bulbs which should not be dumped with regular trash. They discussed an option to take used fluorescent bulbs from customers who bring them along with their bills.

Evans said he is looking at a future program called Operation Round-Up where utility customers can volunteer to round up their bill to the nearest dollar with the difference going to city projects.

Evans said that water rates will probably have a minor increase in the summer season, due to a new conservation water rate requirement for 2012. He said that the intent is to encourage people to use less water, and water use tends to be higher in the summer.

"My suggestion is going to be to implement a conservation rate in the summer months only, and then be very modest with it. Maybe a nickel if you use more than 1,000 cubic feet, or 5,000 cubic feet," he said.

Other towns, as shown on a table, have established a rate that increases once water use reaches a certain threshold.

The water tower is tentatively scheduled to be washed in 2013. In 2015, a water main extension is scheduled for the Industrial Park area. In 2020, the tower is slated to be repainted on the outside and recoated on the inside.

City administrator Brad Swenson said to keep in mind that there will probably be a substantial sewer rate increase by the end of the year or beginning of next year because of sewer plant construction.

For both water and electric, they are looking into an AMI program which shows how much utilities are used at given points and might help customers who are wondering why their bill is higher than usual.

Evans showed tables comparing Wadena electric and water residential and commercial rates to the rates of other area cities and utility providers, and Wadena's rates are lower than average.

"I would put our electric and our water rates up against anybody in the state. We're going to be in the bottom 20 percent," Evans said.

In another agenda item, the council approved the Wadena Development Authority board's recommendation to approve a loan agreement with modified terms: $50,000 at 5 percent interest and a 5 year amortization with a UCC filing on all business aspects and a personal guarantee for Mike Bullinger. Dean Uselman of the WDA said the security agreement terms had changed when the company closed.

The MIF loan was originally approved in November 2010 for Innovative Surfaces to purchase a piece of equipment.