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Water fund needs to be replenished

By Staff | Aug 21, 2008

Turn the tap and clean water flows into homes and businesses.

Most take the service for granted and that will continue here in Estherville.

As reported in Tuesday’s Daily News though, residents will begin paying a little more for the service-an additional $9 a month for the average home-following the September billing cycle as city council improved the rate increase on Monday.

The two biggest reasons for the rate increase are the rise in costs of both electricity and salt.

Estherville’s water comes from a deep well-760 feet-that taps into an aquifer nicknamed the Jordan aquifer.

“It’s good quality water, but it’s hard water,” said city administrator Steve Woodley.

The city water plant processes the water to about five-grain hardness.

Woodley said a few homes in Estherville still use softeners to take out more of the minerals, but the city water goes though the same process of softening except on a larger scale.

“We filter it, aerate it, treat it with fluoride and chlorine and soften it,” said Woodley.

Electricity costs have increased from just under $85,000 to just over $108,000 per year, a 28 percent increase.

However, the price of salt is the larger of the two expenses.

Salt costs rose from $138,00 to $242,000, a 76 percent increase.

Woodley said Estherville’s salt comes from Louisiana-a high purity salt-that comes by barge to the Twin Cities or eastern Iowa and then is trucked to Estherville.

While the cost of salt may have risen just a little, most of the increase comes from transportation costs.

The last time Estherville changed rates was seven years ago. During the 2005-06 fiscal year, the net change in the water fund budget was still positive-to the tune of $24, 877.

However the water fund operated at a deficit the past two years-$178,292 in 2006-07 and $143,648 in 2007-08.

While the ending balance was still at $467,779 on June 30, 2008, the projected balance on June 30, 2009, without the water rate increase, is estimated at $27,000, according to Woodley.

The rate increases, expected to generate an additional $360,000 per year, will allow the city to keep up with its operating cost and maintain the infrastructure.

Looking to the future though, the city council will soon be considering a possible $2 million water treatment plant expansion and ground storage reservoir project in 2009.

In a memo to the city council, Woodley said increased rates will not finance that capital improvement project. Within the next few weeks, the city administrator will present the engineer’s recommendation to council.