City Council unanimously approved an ordinance Monday night that would increase the rates of two utilities come next year.
A 10 percent increase to both water and sewer rates was approved after much discussion from City Council, particularly on how rate increases are determined and how often utility rates have to be increased.
Including the new increases, sewer and water rates have increased a combined five times since 2013, beginning when the city financed a state-mandated $14 million mechanical wastewater treatment facility.
Water rates were increased by 5 percent and sewer rates by 40 percent in 2013 and then again in 2016 when sewer rates increased another 20 percent.
City Finance Director Denise Towns said rate increases are required as part of the finance agreement for covering debt repayment for treatment facility construction, capital projects and regular plant maintenance and operation.
“Rates increases are standard for utilities, especially water and sewer which are some of the more volatile and expensive,” City Manager Greg McDanel said. “There were communities across the state, still are, that experiencing 150 percent rate increases just to pay for the mandated EPA.”
Towns said that with the city having to dip into its reserve funding to pay for capital projects at the facility, increases will also help replenish those.
“Trying not to do an increase every year, trying to stager it at least every two years if possible,” Towns said. “So some of that has led to bigger rate increases all at once.”
McDanel said Maryville was fortunate to have had good financial management that allowed them to keep their fund in good shape throughout the process.
The rate increase is expected to raise a person’s monthly bill anywhere from $3.50 to $4.89 depending on consumption rates.
Councilman Matt Johnson raised questions about the totality of rate increases and about new water meters that were installed throughout the city in 2016 and 2017.
The agreement with Schneider Electric for the meters would have allowed the city to reclaim certain funds if rates were met.
McDanel said that the city had not been able to meet those standards last year.
“The analysis that was done by Schneider Electric had indicated on average that there was a 10 percent water loss,” Town said. “So they were expecting to have about a 10 percent increase.”
The rate increase is scheduled to take effect in January 2019 and would generate approximately $487,000 in revenue.
City discusses potential guideline plans for the downtown redesign
Much of the discussion centered around a previous 2009 downtown design plan that the council hopes to revise and continue for downtown revitalization.
The plan was made possible through the Missouri Downtown Revitalization & Economic Assistance for Missouri initiative, which allows for select communities to receive technical assistance for their downtown design plans.
“The design guidelines are essential planning recommendations for policy and procedural decisions,” McDanel said.
The discussion shifted to how the city should eventually implement those plans, whether through a resolution or ordinance.
Whereas a resolution is essentially a suggested guideline, an ordinance is engrained in the city's code and must be abided by.
Once the guideline plan is finally determined, the city will present it to local stakeholders and downtown Maryville for further discussion and review.
McDanel said the hope is to adopt the development plan as a resolution and then have property owners, stakeholders and the city determine what aspects need to be implemented into city code.
“In a lot of these dream communities, a lot of these downtown revitalization efforts, they want to know that if they make an investment in their property that their next door neighbor is going to be held to the same standard,” McDanel said.
Assistant City Manager Ryan Heiland said that for property owners, having design creativity is an appealing aspect that comes with using resolutions instead of an ordinance.
He added that ordinances can be helpful for things like signage and coordinating with zoning ordinances for sidewalk projects.
Maryville has looked at other cities downtown areas for potential ideas along the way.
McDanel said that like many cities with notable Downtown areas, Maryville’s residents prefer a certain style design for their Downtown as well.
“Some love the more modern look, some love the historic look,” McDanel said. “What is that ideal vision? We’ve got a great starting point.”
New public safety facility planning continues
After a meeting with architects in late October, Maryville was presented with a two-story design plan for the anticipated new public safety building.
“The project is in preliminary design with many moving parts,” McDanel said. “Very proud of the staff for making tough decisions with regard to efficiency, wants versus needs.”
Another closed meeting is scheduled for Nov. 28 for further review of the building.