2011-09-22 / Front Page

Water, sewer rates to climb by 5 percent

BY PHIL ZAHODIAKIN

Jamestowners who use more town water than the minimum volume, which incurs the flat, quarterly fee, willseea5percentincreaseintheir next water bill, while their billings for sewer use – but not for sewer debt service – will increase by 5 percent, as well.

The increases, which include hikes for some miscellaneous services, are mandated by the fiscal year 2011-12 water and sewer budgets adopted by the Town Council members acting as water and sewer commissioners during their Sept. 19 meeting. The unanimous votes passing the budgets were the most significant near-term financial decisions reached during the water and sewer – and subsequent Town Council – meetings.

Otherwise, the pending financial issues awaiting decisions were discussed but not resolved. Those issues include the reconstruction of the John C. Rembijas pavilion, a contract for video recording Town Council meetings, and the next round of studies necessary for a decision on the proposed wind turbine.

The increase in water rates is part of the scheduled, biennial rate hikes intended to fund debt service for the $6.2 million water treatment plant and its upgrades. The rate hike for sewer services is intended to pay for normal, operating cost increases, along with the annual $50,000 setaside for the eventual replacement of the effluent filter used to supply water to the golf course.

The next round of water and sewer bills will be sent out on Sept. 30. Under the water-rate increase, people using less than 5,000 gallons per quarter won’t be affected, but those who use more than 5,000 gallons perquarterwillseea5percent increase in their applicable rates. For example, the rate for those using up to 5,000 gallons more than the minimum volume will see their $5.06-per-1,000-gallon rate increase to $5.32, and those using up to 10,000 gallons more than the minimum will see their $5.46-per-1,000- gallon rate increase to $5.73.

The sewer budget doesn’t raise the debt service fees, which include a flat debt service fee of $38.02, and a debt service usage rate of $6.49 per 1,000 gallons. However, the non-debt usage fees will increase by 5 percent. For example, the $9.25-per-1,000-gallon usage rate will increase to $9.71; the $107.20-per-1,000-gallon pump-out rate will increase to $112.56; and the rate for those with sewer but not water will increase from $9.25 per 1,000 gallons to $9.71.

Meeting as town councilors, the council again delayed a decision on what, if anything, Jamestown will pay for video recordings of its meetings. Under the most recent decision tree, the vendors who submitted bids on various aspects of the proposed service were supposed to present summaries of their bids during this week’s council meeting, and the councilors had planned to hold a vendor-selection vote after the presentations.

However, one of the vendors offering software to enable public access to the videos – ClerkBase – was unable to send a representative because the company is attending a trade conference. A second potential vendor, Jamestown Daily Record publisher Sav Rebecchi, has not submitted a formal bid; however, because he has offered to provide the recording and access services free of charge, there isn’t any necessity for him to present the details of his offer.

Software vendor IQM2 had submitted the lowest bid (outside of Rebecchi’s offer), but the company was not invited to present a summary of its proposal because its bid “is considered a low-ball submission that might not be available after the first year,” says a memo to the council from Councilor Bob Bowen.

In a public comment to the council, resident Blake Dickinson argued that the money that the town might spend on video recording (unless Rebecchi’s offer is accepted) should be spent, instead, on enhancements to the town’s website. But the argument didn’t elicit any response from the councilors.

The only vendor presentation they heard was delivered by David Coccia from ATR Treehouse, which is offering hardware services at a firstyear cost of $21,569 for a pair of cameras – with one of them to face the council and the other to face the podium. The bid will increase by $3,000 if the town decides to add a service contract and training to operate the cameras from a remote position.

ClerkBase is expected to deliver its software presentation during the Oct. 3 council meeting, after which the council will vote on the providers unless there’s an unforeseen circumstance delaying the vote.

Another delayed decision, albeit one with a much more complicated future, is an $87,575 expenditure for additional wind turbine proposal studies and other associated costs. The town is hoping the state will pick up the tab for this phase of the turbine proposal initiative, but it’s unclear what will happen if the money isn’t awarded. If it is, the grant will pay for, among other things, the second tier of a National Grid study to pin down interconnections costs ($25,000); meteorological analysis ($4,000); photo simulations of what the turbine will actually look like at the Taylor Point site ($3,000); and consulting services for a power purchase agreement ($13,800).

The money being offered by the state is actually federal stimulus money which had previously been awarded for Jamestown’s wind turbine proposal, and then withdrawn when it became clear that the turbine could not be built by the March 2012 deadline. Town Administrator Bruce Keiser said the state Office of Energy Resources, which has allocated the $2.5 million in federal money to the Renewable Energy Fund administered by the Economic Development Corporation, views the Jamestown proposal “very favorably” because the town has already invested $60,000 to study and plan for a turbine, which is much more effort than other applicants have expended.

Jamestown’s request for a renewable energy grant in support of the turbine proposal will be submitted Thursday, Sept. 22. While the town is awaiting the state’s decision on the request, it will also be pursuing a favorable decision on its arguments for a greater insurance reimbursement for the John C. Rembijas pavilion.

The town’s insurance carrier, the Interlocal Trust, has offered to pay $198,000 for the loss of the pavilion in a February snowstorm. The cost of the replacement design selected by the council, and built to current code, is about $356,000 – along with $16,646 for the substitution of a metal roof for the asphalt roof specified by the selected option. So, the town and the trust are nearly $175,000 apart, and until that gap is closed, the council cannot proceed with any decision requesting the building official to issue a construction permit.

Under federal rules for structures in flood zones, the pavilion would appear to need a scour-proof foundation; however, because the design selected by the council would support the roof with deep posts whose stability won’t depend on the foundation, and because the pavilion won’t be habitable, the town’s building official could issue a construction permit without a heavily reinforced slab. Keiser and Public Works Director Mike Gray are in the process of developing a counter proposal to the $198,000 offer.

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