Monmouth water to go up by 9 percent

MONMOUTH — Residents of Monmouth will see their water rates increase by 9 percent, or about $2.80 per month for an average household.

The two main drivers behind the rate hike are state-mandated improvements to the filtration system of one of the city’s wells and the addition of new staff to the public works department, said Scott McClure, Monmouth city manager.

“The key thing is we don’t have the cash on hand to fix the well,” he said. “When the cash is not there, we’re talking about getting the rates up to where we can take on debt to make those improvements.”

Three new employees were hired for the public works department, who will be paid partially out of the water fund because they will be working on water-related projects, McClure said.

“In this case, we absolutely have water needs, so we charge a portion of the new employees to the water fund,” he said.

Monmouth Power and Light, and sewer rates will remain steady because those funds maintain healthy reserves, McClure said.

“The wastewater fund … has very substantial reserves,” he said. “The operating cash is pretty tight, but the reserves are nice. The electric fund is in healthy shape and doing fine.”

The city is working on getting a full rate study done this year for water and sewer, McClure said.

“That will give us a better idea, a more comprehensive idea,” he said. “We’ve been doing it more informally at a staff level. This takes everything into account and will give us a pathway for five or 10 years or so.”

Without a comprehensive rate study, rate increases — and decreases — have been determined by Monmouth city employees trying to balance expenses with reserves and revenues, McClure said.

“It was a shock to our system when the well system came up,” he said. “We weren’t planning on that.”

In 2014 and 2015, the rates for Monmouth Power and Light were decreased by 3 percent each year. No decreases will be provided this year.

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