Council to Consider Filing Water Rate Case

At its August 7 meeting, the City Council will be asked to authorize filing a water rate case with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin.  Based on an analysis prepared for the City by Schenck Associates, a rate increase of 10 to 11 percent is likely to result.  We expect it will take effect on January 1, 2018.

The need for such a rate filing has been addressed in the City’s 2016 and 2017 budgets.  It was deferred, in part, to see if a potential large water user—the proposed bottling operation in the former Paragon facility—would come on-line.  That has not happened to date.

Such a rate increase would add about $5.00 to the monthly water bill for a customer using 700 CF (approximately 5,250 gallons) per month.

The City’s last filing with the PSCW for new water rates was in 2010; a 27 percent rate increase was implemented in September of that year.

In the ensuing seven years, there have been three inflation-based adjustments (“simplified rate cases”) of 3 percent each August 2012, November 2013 and January 2015.

The City’s Water Utility has a deficit balance of about $1.8 million, which needs to be reduced and eliminated over the next several years.

Operating costs at the utility have been kept well under control in recent years—2016 operating expenses of $2,143, 680 were 11.5 percent lower than five years prior.  But the utility has high debt service costs, mostly related to the 2002 filtration plant upgrade.  Smaller capital projects, for which debt was not issued, have added to the utility’s deficit.

Water usage has also steadily declined in recent years, reflecting a primarily residential user base (75 percent of water consumed is by residential customers) and an aging demographic.   …And probably the impact of higher water rates.  2016 water sales of 324 million gallons were down 17 percent from 2011.

The addition of a large water user, which would increase revenues and help cover the utility’s fixed costs, would benefit all ratepayers.  The City needs to step up efforts to “sell” its high quality, membrane-filtered water to new customers.

The City Council, Utility Director and I all hate to talk about another water rate increase.  TR’s water rates are already about 12 percent above the median for NE Wisconsin water utilities.

But we also have a responsibility to be good stewards of that important community resource, and addressing rates is part of that responsibility.

Seeking Funds for Harbor Improvements

At a special meeting on Monday of this week, the City Council approved an application to Wisconsin’s Harbor Assistance Program (HAP) for $500,000 to fund full engineering design and modeling for a new structure at the harbor entrance on Lake Michigan.

The purpose of such a structure would be to reduce wave action (storm surge) in the harbor and to reduce shoaling (sand buildup) that occurs between the piers.  These long-recognized problems need to be addressed if Two Rivers is to see further development of its Lake Michigan harbor.  Alleviating the shoaling problem will also reduce the frequency of harbor dredging, which is a very expensive maintenance activity.

A 2015-17 study funded by the City and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Detroit District evaluated design options to wave mitigation, and pointed to a “dog leg” extension of the south pier, headed to the northeast, as the best option to dissipate the energy of waves that often coming rolling straight into the harbor from the southeast.

That report was finalized in July of this year, and can be viewed on the City’s website, www.two-rivers.org.

Proposed match for the HAP grant would be $500,000 in USACE funds recently programmed for repairs to the south breakwater.  The City has lobbied hard for that funding since 2015, when problems with the south breakwater—large armor stone that had subsided and left a gap beneath the concrete cap on that structure—were first observed.

Both of these activities related to our Lake Michigan harbor infrastructure are important long-term investments for this coastal community.

In recent years, HAP has assisted with several major harbor projects, including inner harbor dredging (2013), outer harbor dredging (2016) and the Harbor Park seawall (2015-16).

Community Care Day/Maxwell Street Days August 4

Central Park in front of City Hall will be filled with displays and demonstrations from various City departments and community groups on Friday, August 4.  About 40 exhibitors have reserved spaces for this annual event, which will also include food vendors.

Also that day, downtown stores will offer sidewalk sales and special promotions for the Two Rivers Business Association’s annual Maxwell Street day.  Still plenty of time to wear summer apparel from Schroeder’s, fill up a cooler from Homestead Outlet, or pick up special deals from other downtown shops.

“Community Cares” Concert at the Beach

Friday evening, the band White Chocolate will take the stage at the Rotary Pavilion from 5:00 to 8:00 PM, for the first-ever “Community Cares” concert.

The music is free, and food and beverages will be sold by Two Rivers Rotary, with proceeds to benefit Rotary community projects.   Pulled pork sandwiches, hot dogs, soda and beer from 3 Sheeps Brewery are on the menu.

In case of foul weather, the concert will move indoors to the Community House gym.

Rain or shine, plan to be there!

Two Rivers City Manager Greg Buckley can be contacted by calling 920-793-5532, or by e-mailing gbuckley@two-rivers.org.

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