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Rates: Decrease and increase

PRINCETON — Utility rates and service charges could be adjusted in coming months in an effort to get funds for repairs to Princeton’s sewer system.

At this week’s special planning session for the Princeton City Council, Princeton City Manager Jeff Clawson presented a proposal which would decrease the electric utility service charge rate and increase the sewer service charge, the sewer usage rate and the garbage rate. If approved by the council, the overall increase would be about 3.72 percent. The monthly utility bill for the average residential customer would increase from $211 per month to $219.

Looking at the electric utility, Clawson recommended the council suspend the previously approved October 2013 rate increase and also reduce the residential and commercial service charge in the electric fund by about $5 a month, which would result in a reduction of about $265,000 in that fund. The electric department currently has cash reserves of about $2 million as well as $3 million in operating cash reserves and is fairly positive and maintaining. The rates currently charged to users seem to be at a good place, he said.

His proposal would be to take that potential electric fund money, plus a little bit more, and put it in the sewer service charge in order to generate additional money for the needed sanitary sewer upgrades. He recommended changing the current sewer service charge to $11 a month for all sizes of meter, which would for most meter sizes, be an increase of about $6 a month. That change would generate about $251,481 in new money, the city manager said.

Clawson also recommended an increase in the sewer usage rate. Based on a monthly average use of 6,000 gallons and the current $4.05 usage rate, the average customer would pay $37 a month for sewer. If the sewer usage rate was increased to $4.50, the average customer would pay a monthly bill of $47, which would result in $276,000 in new money. if that rate was increased to $5, that same average customer would pay $51 in his monthly bill, which would result in $430,000 in new money for the department.

His recommendation was the $5 usage rate which would generate the most money for the work needed on the city’s sanitary sewer system.

Mayor Keith Cain said the city needs to address problems with its sanitary sewer system, and that can’t be done without additional money.

In other services, Clawson recommended increasing the garbage pick-up fund from $9.50 a month to $10.50 a month, which is not a critical decision at this point. The biggest issue with the garbage fund is engineering costs at the abandoned landfill to keep the Environmental Protection Agency satisfied, Clawson said.

The council took no action on these recommendations.

In other updates at Monday’s meeting, the council heard about needing a new radio system to increase communication between all city departments with the exception of the fire department which has its own radio system. The upgrade would cost about $78,000 for 50 mobile and 50 portable radios, as well as additional repeaters and other equipment.

Clawson said he has gone through line items in the city budget and made cuts which would save $41,000 to help pay for the emergency upgrade. The additional $37,000 would be taken from cash reserves from the various departments, since this is
considered an emergency communication issue.

The council also discussed an expansion of the city’s fiber optic system, needed work on the city’s storage lagoon and cannibal system, as well as a future upgrade on North Euclid Avenue from Central Avenue to Elm Place.

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