Utility connection fees to increase in Holton
The cost to connect to or upgrade city utilities in Holton is going up this June, but as the Holton City Commission noted during its regular meeting on Monday, people already getting city utility service are unlikely to be affected by the increase in connection costs.
Commissioners approved increases in connection permit fees for city water, sewer and electric service after Holton City Manager Bret Bauer said the permit fees had not been updated since the 1990s. The superintendents of those utilities also told commissioners that the increases were being sought in order to keep up with the rising cost of materials and labor needed in making those connections.
“We’re not looking to make any money on this,” Holton Water and Sewer Superintendent Dennis Ashcraft told commissioners. “We’re just looking to cover our costs.”
Furthermore, as Commissioner Erich Campbell noted, the increase in connection permit fees will not have an effect on existing city utility customers’ current service rates.
“It won’t affect 99 percent of the people in this town,” Campbell said. “It’s not like everyone is going to get an increase in their fees. If you’re building a new house on a new lot, you’re subject to these fees. Everybody else who’s got their tap is already grandfathered in, if you will.”
Bauer said the electric and sewer connection permit fees had not been updated since 1991, and the water connection permit fee had not been updated since 1998. As a result, he said, the city’s connection permit fees are “under par,” especially with the cost of materials and labor going up over the years.
Electric Distribution Superintendent Scott Frederickson said the increases in the connection fees cover “just the overhead” for his department, which handled 18 electric connection permits in 2014. Connection permits are granted for either new construction or for existing electric customers who need to upgrade their electric service, he said.
Ashcraft also noted that the water and sewer connection fee increases were based on material and labor costs, which have “gone up tremendously in the past few years.” It was reported that the city granted three water connection permits, including two new service connections and one upgrade, along with two new sewer service connections in 2014.
The new connection permit fee schedules include:
* Electric: For “single phase” electric service, the connection fee will be $75 per 100 amperes of service, up from $60. The connection fee for “three phase” electric service will be $100. Commissioners noted that the fee covers costs and materials up to $1,200 for “single phase” service and up to $3,000 for “three phase” service, with all costs beyond those amounts to be charged to the utility customer.
* Water: In some cases, the connection fee has more than tripled. For water customers inside the city limits, the fee for a 5/8-inch water line or a 3/4-inch line will go from $300 to $990; for a one-inch line, from $400 to $1,210; for a two-inch line, from $600 to $2,090; for a four-inch line, from $1,200 to $3,190; and for a six-inch line, from $1,800 to $4,730.
Under the old ordinance, the connection fee for any line larger than six inches was $1,800 plus additional time and material for the service application. The new ordinance sets a connection fee of $7,150 for an eight-inch line; for larger lines, the fee will be $7,150 plus additional time and material costs.
For customers outside the city limits, the fee for a 5/8-inch line or a 3/4-inch line rose from $900 to $2,970; for a one-inch line, from $1,200 to $3,630; for a two-inch line, from $1,800 to $6,270; for a four-inch line, from $3,600 to $9,570; and for a six-inch line, from $5,400 to $14,190.
Under the old ordinance, the connection fee for out-of-town service on any line larger than six inches was $5,400 plus additional time and material costs. The new ordinance sets a fee of $21,450 for an eight-inch line, as well as a fee of $21,450 plus additional time and material costs on lines larger than eight inches.
A fee of $1,100 will also be assessed for any service that requires boring under roads for placement of water lines.
* Sewer: Connection fees for residential and commercial sewer service rose from $125 to $275 for a four-inch sewer line and from $135 to $385 for a six-inch sewer line. The connection fee for an industrial building sewer permit increased from $200 to $500.
All three of the new connection permit fee schedules take effect on June 1.
In other business on Monday, commissioners were introduced to Emily Montgomery, who is taking over management of the Holton Municipal Swimming Pool this year. Montgomery, a 2013 graduate of Holton High School currently attending Cloud County Community College, will be in her fourth year of working at the pool this summer, she said.
Commissioners also approved an updated policy manual for swimming pool employees, with Bauer noting updates requiring lifeguards to cover body piercings while on duty and limiting cell phone use by pool staff to the manager on duty. Campbell recommended that the latter be modified to include electronic devices such as iPads.
Commissioners also recommended a check on the “landline” to the pool, since Bauer noted that the telephone line at the pool “doesn’t always want to cooperate,” which City Clerk Teresa Riley said may be due to the use of chemicals at the pool. Bauer also noted that the pool will open for the season on Saturday, May 23.
* Approved minutes from their April 6 meeting and budget appropriations made since that meeting.
* Witnessed Commissioner Tim Morris receiving the oath of office for his third commission term from Riley. Morris recently defeated Blair Wagner in the spring general election to earn his third three-year term.
* Elected Commissioner Robert Dieckmann to his third year as mayor of Holton. Dieckmann also announced his intention to complete his current term on the commission and then “let someone else younger have it.”
* Noted the attendance of local Cub Scouts Lee Wellman and Caden Huskey of Holton and Garrett Klahr of Wetmore, all of whom were earning merit badges for community service through their attendance.
* Approved the closure of the 800 block of Iowa Avenue from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday for a neighborhood barbecue. Bauer noted that city staff will place barricades at the north and south ends of the street at that time; residents of the block are required to move the barricades out of the street at the end of the event.
* Heard a comment from Commissioner Dan Brenner about what the owners of a house on New Jersey Avenue that had recently received extensive fire damage were doing about the house. Assistant City Manager Kerwin McKee said the owners had told City Attorney Dennis White that they plan to tear down the house.
* Heard a question from Brenner about whether the city had a policy, as Topeka reportedly does, about charging businesses whose alarms require a great deal of police response.
* Heard a question from Commissioner Twila White about who is responsible for maintenance of the stormwater retention pond at the intersection of Third Street and Nebraska Avenue. According to Bauer, it is the city’s responsibility to maintain.
* Heard a comment from Morris about certified letters sent to the owners of five properties in the city that have been deemed nuisances. Morris asked fellow commissioners to keep an eye on those properties and make sure improvements are made.
* Heard a question from Dieckmann about a police citation issued recently for “harboring a pit bull,” a breed of dog that has been banned from the city, and whether the dog has been removed from the city. Bauer said the owners of the dog were given notice to appear in city court.
* Adjourned the meeting at 7:40 p.m.