Panel approves 2018 fee schedule, increases in water rates

ISHPEMING — The city of Ishpeming continues to take small steps to improve the health of its water fund.

Ishpeming residents will see their water bills go up in 2018 by 12 percent — less than the anticipated 15 percent.

The Ishpeming City Council approved the increase to the water rates Wednesday as part of the city’s 2018 fee schedule.

Minimum monthly charges will increase from $38.34 to $42.94, which will cover up to 2,500 gallons of water use. For each additional 1,000 gallons used beyond that, new rates will be $17.18, up from $15.34.

The increase comes from a deficit elimination plan required by the state.

With the initial implementation of the plan in 2016, water rates went up 35 percent in 2017, with additional projected increases of 15 percent in 2018 and 5 percent in 2019. The council approved a revised deficit elimination plan in June reducing the 2018 rate hike from 15 percent to 12 percent.

The expected increase in water rates was lower due to a smaller-than-anticipated deficit in the water fund at the end of 2016.

“I am pleased to report to council that the actual reportable water fund deficit at the end of fiscal year 2016 was $1,078,057, which is $39,130 less than the projected deficit,” a June letter from Ishpeming Finance Director Jim Lampman to the council states.

Monthly sewer rates for the first 2,500 gallons used will increase about 5 percent in 2018 from $30.40, to $31.90. For each 1,000 gallons used after that, charges will go from $12.16 to $12.77, according to the fee schedule.

There has also been a decrease in delinquent bills due to a collection policy enacted by the council in May 2016.

The council on Wednesday approved a resolution of lien enforcement and added $77,676 in delinquent utility bills to the Dec. 1 tax rolls as special assessments.

City Treasurer Kaitlyn Feldbauer said prior to enacting the new policy, the city officials could expect to add up to $200,000 in special assessments due to delinquent utility bills annually.

The policy, which was amended March 2, clearly defines the treatment of delinquent utility accounts in the city.

Feldbauer said she sent each of the 98 customers on the tentative list presented to the council a letter giving them two weeks to either pay the delinquent bill or contact the city to make payment arrangements to avoid having the charges added to the tax rolls.

One account on the list has a $31,572 balance as the result of a water leak in an unoccupied house, Feldbauer said, which is almost half of the total tentative amount of uncollected delinquent utility funds.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.