Water, Sewer Rates To Rise In St. Mary

By MARK EVANS

mevans@stegenherald.com

Despite some objections from residents attending last Thursday’s meeting, the St. Mary Board of Aldermen unanimously passed two ordinances, setting new water and wastewater rates for the city.

The water rate increased by 3% and the sewer rate by 8%. These reflected increases in the fees the providers are charging the city.

During discussion of the first ordinance, Maria Scherer raised a question and complaint about the way the billing was done.

“If I use 1,000 gallons, I’m paying a set price for it,” she said. “If I use 1,200 gallons, I’m paying 2,000 [gallons worth] for it.”

She questioned why users weren’t charged  a straight per gallon fee.

“That’s just the way it’s set up,” Mayor Carlton Wyatt told her. “It has been for years.”

Scherer asked if that could be changed. Alderwoman Annette Hacker and Wyatt replied that the city is billed that way for water.

“If we get billed one way we can’t go another way,” Wyatt said.

“I don’t like it either, Maria,” Hacker said, “but that’s just the way it is.”

Alderman Zen Duda also clarified for Scherer that the provider was the one who set up the rate schedule.

Wyatt said departing from that rate schedule – if possible at all – would have bad outcomes.

“If we did change it that way, we’d probably have to raise water rates,” he said, “because we’d lose money.

“If we changed that to every gallon, then we wouldn’t be getting enough money to pay the water bill.”

City employee Cody Myers asked how much the rate was going up and whether it would cover the cost of water.

Wyatt told him the rate increases and said it will get about “a nickel” above cost.

“We’re just skimming by,” Wyatt noted.

Myers mentioned that the cost of chlorinating the water needed to be figured in.

ELECTION RESULTS ARE ACCEPTED

The board also officially accepted results of the April 6 election.

Katrina Ullman ran unopposed for city collector, drawing 19 votes. Incumbent Dr. Zen Duda got two votes, while Ron Barnett, also unopposed for reelection, got one  vote.

In Ward 2, Karl Schultz, also facing no challenger, picked up 16 votes.

Proposition E, which will allow the city to forgo any more elections like this one, in which there are no more candidates than open positions, passed 18-4, an 81.8% to 18.2% margin.

Duda, Barnett and Schultz were all sworn in for another term by city manager/city clerk David Woods.

FRELIX, WYATT DEBATE STREETS

During the citizen input segment at the end of the meeting, former postmaster Melvin Frelix asked Wyatt about the possibility of Church Street being paved.

Frelix asked how much money is in the street fund and what the upcoming projects will be. He added that, “We’ve had two or three mayors who didn’t do what you did when you were first here; you set down plans for doing certain things.”

Wyatt replied that he has not yet delved into that topic like he had planned, since returning as mayor last summer.

Woods said the street fund had $25,553 in it at the moment.

Frelix asked when the last street was repaired or replaced, other than cold-patching.

Wyatt said city revenue, including fuel tax money, is way down, which makes it difficult to do much.

More than once, Frelix remarked that he just wanted to see a plan for upcoming street work. Wyatt later told him that “saving streets” that are falling apart will take priority over paving gravel streets. He also suggested that gravel streets like Church Street were in better shape than some of the deteriorating paved streets.