It's that time of year again. For the third year in a row, Kenai water and sewer users will soon see an increase in the rates they pay for city utilities.
The Kenai City Council on Wednesday approved a rate increase of 10 percent for water and 12 percent for sewer, effective June 15. The increases are identical to hikes imposed for the 2004 and 2005 fiscal years. The 2006 fiscal year begins July 1.
It's all part of a plan to help pay for major work being done to the city's water system, which is not in compliance with strict new federal guidelines for arsenic levels that will go into effect next year. Because the city recently had to drill a new well and is in the process of purchasing a half million dollar treatment facility among other upgrades the increases were needed to help replenish the city's water and sewer fund.
The good news is the end of double digit increases is likely in sight.
Kenai Finance Director Larry Semmens explained that the rate increases are a way to gradually phase in a planned 35 percent hike recommended by consultants hired by the city to address the need for utility improvements. Since that number has nearly been reached, Semmens said the need for further increases likely won't be as dire.
"We are nearing what we recommended initially," Semmens said.
In addition to added capital costs, the city also is facing higher operation costs in the future when the new treatment facility comes on line. However, because the rate increases have replenished the city's funds to the tune of between $200,000 and $300,000 per year Semmens said he believes the utilities should be in good shape.
"By the end of 2005 we will be back to where it was before the wellhouse four project," he said.
Wellhouse four is the city's newest well, located near the Kenai Golf Course. Once the well is fully online and hooked into the city's existing system, city officials say they believe the city's water issues will essentially be solved.
Last summer, Kenai experienced a number of water pressure problems due to not being able to pump water fast enough during an unusually warm summer. That situation could repeat itself this summer, as work is still ongoing.
However, Kenai Public Works Director Keith Kornelis said Wednesday that the situation should be fully taken care of by next year.
In addition to the rate increases, the council also passed an ordinance streamlining the city's water and sewer rules and increasing fees for a number of services. Included in those increases were jumps from $100 to $200 for a water and sewer permit, from $10 to $25 for turning the utilities on or off (from $20 to $100 during overtime hours), from $20 to $50 for the initial deposit (returned after two years), from $150 to $200 for using a fire hydrant and from $30 to $40 per day (or at metered rate) for using hydrant water.
In other action, the council:
Passed an ordinance allowing the city to lease, devote or grant city land to 501 (c) (3) nonprofit groups without public sale.
Approved the drafting of a letter to be submitted to the Alaska Legislature asking for funds to help the city deal with increases to the Public Employees Retirement System.
Approved the termination of a lease at Kenai Municipal Airport terminal's space 21. The lease was held by Wings Family Diner owners Roger and Linda Petrey, who operated it as a concession stand. But the Petreys no longer wanted to use the space, and the council allowed the lease to be terminated because another business offered to lease it. Following the lease termination, the council approved Dottie Fischer's lease requestto operate her Alaska's Best Travel business in the space.
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