The Bloomfield City Council held quite a debate last week, but finally decided on how to handle rate increases for the city’s sewer utility customers. Council members held the discussion during the June 6 meeting and debated many different ideas on how to increase rates in a way that they can raise funds to help pay for much needed sewer improvements.  

During the meeting, the council discussed the many things that need to be done to the sewer plant to help bring it into compliance with Iowa Department of Natural Resources regulations. Parts of those improvements are two lift stations, replacing guardrails, a trash basket and event upsizing lagoon piping from 16-inch to 20-inch pipes.

Hailey Gingerich of H.R. Green Company was on hand to explain some of the upgrades and repairs. In terms of the piping upsize, Gingerich said the 10-inch pipe would have to be installed in the lagoons themselves because they didn’t want to compromise lagoon levies.

Changes also include putting up an additional building to house needed equipment.

The estimated cost of the project stands at nearly $6.8 million based on cost estimates and engineering fee projections. The city is looking to bid the project next January.

City officials are looking at financing the project through a two-percent interest loan through the Iowa Finance Authority. Council members learned that seeking sewer revenue bonds would end up costing the city more than twice that amount in interest. The proposed loan would come with a 20-year payback period.

The council spent a lot of time and debate on how to increase sewer rates to help pay for the loan. Council members learned that the city would be required to have collected 110-percent of its first annual payment of that loan before the loan event gets issued. That figure amounts to more than $400,000.

Council members spent a lot of time debating how to structure the rate increase to generate the revenue and to make the increase fair to everyone. During the discussion, the council learned that there were more than 2,100 utility customers who were hooked on to the city sewer. The council also learned that 920 of those customers were mainly customers who never paid more than the minimum billing charge because their sewer usage was 3,000 gallons or less per month.

Council members debated whether to tax the base sewer rate with the entire rate hike since all customers were paying that fee. Some felt that the larger sewer users should also be held more accountable for the rate increase based on their increased usage.

The council considered many options and discussed several different scenarios, but finally settled on an increase that boosted the base sewer rate from $26.58 to $36. For those with increased usage that part of the rate will jump from $6.10 per 1,000 gallons to $8.25 per $1,000. The addition usage rage is charged for all customers who exceed the 3,000-gallon minimum monthly allowable usage.

The council approved an agreement with HR Green to perform the topographic and right-of-way survey for several blocks of Bloomfield Streets to be included in the next street project.

The council approved a pay increase of 2 percent, plus a cost of living increase for all non-union employees of the city. Earl Howard, Jack Woolard and Scott Moore voted to approve the pay increase. Darin Garrett voted against it.

The council moved to stop all work on a culvert project on East Street in southeastern Bloomfield. The council voted to stop the project, because decisions needed to be made in regard to moving utilities to proceed with the project, which should have started earlier this month.

Council members discussed the possibility of continuing with a culvert or changing it to a bridge. The council was reminded that supplies had already been purchased to help construct the culvert. The council voted 3-0 to approve stoppage of the culvert project with Moore, Howard and Woolard voting in favor of the motion. Garrett abstained.

The council voted to approve a plan for paying for phase II of the Davis County Trails project. Council members learned that the city pledged $40,000 toward the project and that the trails council owed the city for $10,000 in unpaid funds. Council members agreed to take its most recently allotment of hotel motel tax funds and apply it toward the amount owed by the trails council.

The council discussed a noise ordinance change, but took no action. They also discussed potential changes to parking and stop sign issues around the city, but made no formal decisions on potential changes.

In other action, the council voted to approve the purchase of utility poles for the coming fiscal year. They council also voted to extend housing incentives to John Hilbert, Lincoln Lynch and Walter Fowler. The council also approved alcohol permits for Slick’s Place and for J’s One Stop.