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Water issues at center of finance committee meeting

By Staff | Apr 17, 2020

The City of Rugby finance committee focused on water issues during its regular April meeting Wednesday.

The committee attended the meeting both in person and via teleconference in accordance with CDC guidelines to stop the spread of COVID-19.

An overlap in water meter maintenance and billing for Rugby trailer courts was the first water issue discussed. City Auditor Jennifer Stewart told the committee Gary Kirchofner of Parkland Trailer Court had contacted her about city water meter maintenance fees being billed to mobile home residents not receiving maintenance services by the city.

The committee voted to recommend clarifying language in the billing policy to maintain a curb stop in trailer courts and bill any fees associated with the service, but waive the $50 meter maintenance charge.

“Mr. Kirchofner’s people have been taking care of most of (the meters), but this being approved would help remove the (charge). We have it in our policy that we charge $50, so that’s how this came up to forgo that $50 if the city isn’t doing anything,” Stewart said.

The committee also approved a proposal to send a letter and balance statement to All Seasons Water District for water usage associated with Phase II of a water treatment project and raw water lines.

Stewart said All Seasons had paid between 30 and 32 percent of costs associated with Phase II treatment improvements and water lines for their usage.

Stewart said the 2019 All Seasons payments amounted to $113,580.

“That would be for the water, for all four quarterly payments,” she said.

“They had $29,500.15 deducted from the $143,080.15 they actually paid us in 2019,” she noted.

Water came up for discussion again when the committee reviewed budget requests for 2021.

Stewart said improvements on the city water plant were a priority, however, she added, “With the COVID going on, it’s highly unlikely we’re going to get Operation Prairie Dog money right away in January next year, because they do not anticipate (funding) because of the oil production cutbacks.”

“We were looking at over $900,000 for the city,” she said of the funds the city expected. “Part of that was supposed to come in January of 2021 and June of 2021. We have no idea if or what we may receive then. They have told us for budgeting purposes not to budget the Prairie Dog money for 2021.”

“If we get (the money), we’ll have to make amendments to use it. If not, we haven’t planned for it,” she added.

Improvements for the water plant would amount to ” almost $400,000 per side,” Stewart noted, adding parts needed for the improvements would have to be custom made and ordered six months ahead of time.

The committee discussed the possibility of spreading out the work over more than one year to make the improvements more affordable.

“We’ve also been told the Highway 3 project isn’t going to be done this year. So, that’s something we’re looking at doing next year. We had budgeted that out of infrastructure,” Stewart told the committee.

“As far as water plants, there is money set aside in the water fund so it wouldn’t necessarily come out of infrastructure, however, to do both sides in a short time frame, it would be difficult to do that without some infrastructure money,” Stewart noted.

“When you look at the water supply capital improvement fund, there is $423,000 in there. You could do one side,” she added.

Other budget requests included a vehicle and equipment for snow removal and a sickle mower.

Committee member Gary Kraft asked Stewart if the vehicle could be paid for by a special levy. Stewart said she would investigate the possibility.

Mayor Susan Steinke approved the amended budget requests for review by the city council.

In other business, the committee approved a proposal to bring a two percent cost of living raise to the council for a vote in May. The cost of living increase would be in addition to an annual 35 cent increase for city employees. A pay increase recommended for recreation department employee Gary Storbakken was included in the 2021 budget.

The committee also reviewed financial reports, which included a bond payment for the fire hall and a street project from 2009.

“We won’t receive the distribution until probably next Monday and we’re not anticipating those to reflect current sales activity. Those we probably won’t see until May, with the COVID,” Stewart said.

“Other than that, everything is in order and we don’t see much change,” she added.

“We will be releasing the hotel/motel and lodging taxes when we send out those distribution checks next week. So the balance of those will be going out because the budget was approved at the council meeting,” Stewart added.

Stewart told the committee the fire hall had a remaining principal balance of $400,000, with $57,520 in interest for a total of $457,520. The building would be paid off in November 2025.

Kraft said he hoped the Rugby Volunteer Fire Department Auxiliary would hold a fundraiser this summer. “We made $6,000 last time,” he said.

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