Wykoff Council OKs new water meter system

By : 
GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY
SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE

Wykoff’s city councilors paid special attention to the city’s water infrastructure during the March 11 council meeting, choosing to spend approximately $55,000 on a new water meter reading system while also discussing repairs for the water tower and raising sewer rates. 

Wykoff city clerk Becky Schmidt introduced the information related to the need for new water meters, sharing that the meter reader that the city currently owns is not functioning properly and can either be replaced for approximately $15,000 and likely be obsolete within the next two years, or replaced with an entirely different tower-mounted system, estimated to be around $55,000, that would not require someone to drive around town collecting the information directly from the meters. 

“It’s taking three hours to drive around town to read meters,” she stated.

Mayor Al Williams concurred, as he’d been deployed to carry out the work. 

Schmidt outlined that the tower-based data collector would be mounted on an independent tower or the water tower, and it would collect information 24 hours a day. 

“That’s a much easier system, and it’d be saving time, a person out reading meters and wear on a vehicle,” she said. “We’re going to end up doing this anyway because if we can’t read meters, we’d be losing the only income for the water and sewer funds.” 

Fire Chief Wade Baker, who has worked in Chatfield, volunteered, “Chatfield has this system — they can also catch leaks, and so that saves everyone in the long run.” 

Schmidt informed the council that the city has $65,000 in reserve funding and that the cost of the system would be $55,325, leaving a small sum of savings for other projects and not pass the cost on to taxpayers through increased fees — which the city already has had to address after hearing its annual audit report from Smith, Schafer & Associates and getting the news that new wastewater treatment plant’s operating costs are higher than the revenue sewer rates generate. 

Councilor Richard Gleason questioned, “This is for the equipment only?  Not installed?” 

Schmidt replied that it was her understanding that the equipment is easily installed by city staff and that it will enable her to take readings to ensure that someone who is moving into or out of town has an accurate meter reading registered when connecting or disconnecting utilities.

“We’ve got to do something,” Williams commented. 

Councilors Gleason and Mary Tjepkes made the motions that spurred a vote in favor of the purchase. 

Water tower maintenance

The water tower’s maintenance came up next, and it was explained that because Wykoff’s water tower is older, some of its quirks were grandfathered in by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), but that other repairs are required. 

Schmidt told the council that of the companies that submitted letters of interest in executing those necessary repairs, only one came down to fully inspect the water tower and give an on-site opinion of what needs to be done sooner than later. No work was included in the 2019 budget, so anything that’s done will be included in the 2020 budget.  Gleason wanted to know whether the work could be delayed, as he seemed to understand that it was needed immediately, and Schmidt shared that while the council was discussing it during the March meeting, the actual restoration wouldn’t take place until next year. 

“These companies schedule so far out that we need to let them know…because they’re going to hold these prices,” Schmidt said.

“I would like to at least see it in the budget, and maybe it can be broken up two or three years,” Gleason noted.

Audit report

The audit report, given by Andrew Forliti of Smith, Schafer & Associates, contained a summary that stated general fund unassigned reserves were 142 percent of current year general fund expenditures as of Dec. 31, 2018.  General fund increased reserves by $87,821 before transfers out of $222,590.  General tax levy continues to be primary source of funds for governmental fund exceeding state in 2018. 

The city has a capital improvement fund balance of $181,771 available for future capital needs.  All bond payments were made on a timely basis, and $50,910 remains in debt service funds for future debt payments.  Water fund rates are sufficient to cover operating expenses and debt service requirements, but sewer fund received transfer from general fund of $23,300 and continued operating at a deficit, according to the summary. 

Sewer rates increase

That report drew the council to examine its liquid assets — the water passing through its wastewater treatment plant and the amount charged each resident for sewer usage. 

“You’ve seen in the audit that our wastewater treatment plan is not where it’s supposed to be, and when we built it, we figured we’d need a base rate of $50.  The base rate is now $32,” Williams said.

Financial consultant Mike Bubany, of David Drown & Associates, has suggested to the city that it should increase its sewer rates by four percent beginning July 1, which Schmidt summed up as about $1.20 per month. 

Gleason countered, “That’s not enough.” 

Schmidt replied that there will be another four percent as of Jan. 1, 2020. 

“We are cutting costs, also.  There’s a $20,000 decrease because we’re not having a retirement plan for the wastewater plant (due to PeopleService contract), and there’s plant chemical and heat savings,” she said. “We’re not going to just raise rates — we’re also cutting costs.” 

New council member Lyle Morey suggested raising it $2 a month. 

Williams interjected, “The bad thing about it is that we have to raise rates, so we should get started.” 

Gleason posited, “I’m thinking a minimum of $5.  Sorry, but the Band-Aid needs to be ripped off.  We just took away $60,000-some in the general fund…we have things to pay for.” 

Tjepkes made a motion to raise rates by $5, effective this coming July 1.  The motion was seconded and passed. 

Other business

Other business on the agenda found the city accepting a donation of land from the Kingsland school district — the former Kingsland Middle School playground and baseball field — with the provision that the city pays for the surveying costs of about $2,000. 

After that, councilors approved the hire of Eugene Sexton as the new city custodian, with Megan Lipkie available as backup or additional help.  Schmidt commended Sexton for his bravery in action, as he’d already rid her office of an unfortunate mouse. 

Finally, street maintenance news focused on cleanup following the Feb. 24 blizzard, and Williams had his own commendations to share. 

“I think the majority of Wykoff has done fairly well getting cleaned up at the intersections,” he said. “We’ve cleaned up the best we can — there’s an excessive amount of snow, and if we clean up any more, we’ll have to put it on private property and pay when the snow melts into someone’s house.” 

He concluded that it might be wise for the city to seek assistance from Fillmore Township when navigating snow removal in the event of another blizzard like that one.       

Comments

All these people do is spend, spend, spend!  If we don't have the money why did they give the city clerk a hefty raise? She already set her own payrate when they hired her!  All she does is tell them to spend needlessly and cause drama to boot.  Must be nice to just raise our taxes so you can freely spend and we don't ever get a say.  PLEASE someone run for council and get these people out of there, they have no idea what they are doing!