$80 fee approved for improvements to water facilities

by MIKE LESKO | REPORTER Published:

Aurora -- City residents soon will have to pay $80 more a year to help fund future water system improvements.

On Dec. 17, Council unanimously approved the $20 quarterly fee that will appear on water and sewer billings beginning with the first quarter of 2013.

Finance Director Bob Paul said the water capital fee would bring in about $400,000 a year.

"Currently, the water capital fund is at an unacceptably low level," Mayor James Fisher said. "Historically, new construction tie-in fees were the primary revenue source for the city's water and sewer capital fund."

"New construction starts in Aurora are significantly below recent averages," Fisher added, "and the need for capital to offset water line repairs and emergency repairs is a major concern. A water capital fee will create the needed financial comfort to ensure that all water infrastructure-related issues are addressed in a timely manner."

Fisher admitted it wasn't a popular recommendation.

"This is purely a business decision," he said. "We look at it as a small business that the city operates."

Paul said the city paid more than $1 million for water line breaks in 2012, and more money needs to be collected for the future.

The normal residential fee will be $20 a quarter, with an escalating fee for commercial and industrial properties based on the size of their water line connections.

"Almost all residents would have the $20 fee," Paul said. "There are a few residents with larger water lines."

Paul said the city considered assessments to the residents directly affected by water line breaks, but those fees would be "almost outrageous," he said, so that plan was tossed aside.

"The dollars have to come from the users of the system," Paul said.

In addition to future water line breaks, Paul said money will be needed to repair and repaint two water towers in 2013. Service Director John Trew said the two towers would cost a total of about $420,000.

Paul said funds to repair broken water lines were provided in the past with money from tie-in fees that are required when new houses are built, but those fees have diminished because construction has slowed down.

Water tie-ins in 2011 generated $94,650 and through October, 2012, water tie-in revenue totaled $129,121.

The Windward Drive water break repair in 2012 totaled $547,425, while the Meadowview repair scheduled for 2013 is estimated at over $600,000.

Planning-Zoning-Building Director Rich Wehrenberg said there are between 1,000 and 1,200 building lots remaining in the city. He said when those lots are built out, tie-in fees will longer exist.

Email: mlesko@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4187

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