By Jessica Mathews /

A potential water and sewer rate increase was discussed during the Fenton City Council’s virtual meeting on Monday night.

A comprehensive rate study was completed and presented to Council, which showed an increase is necessary to keep up with current operating and capital expenditures. It was stated the average customer uses between 13,000 and 15,000 gallons of water per quarter. The proposed increase based on the study was $42.70 per quarter or 19%, which would be around $14 a month. It was stated they were able to offset a lot of the increase from water on the sewer side. The next bill goes out in April but to be reflected on the next quarterly billing cycle, it was stated that an increase would need to be approved prior to that April bill to start charging the new rates or face being in the same situation. It was further added that nothing is set in stone though and Council could wait until July. There hasn’t been any rate increase since 2009 and guidance was sought from Council how to proceed.

Councilman Sean Sage commented that his biggest concern is the duration between evaluations and the level of impact as a result and Council needs to figure out some kind of plan going forward with less impact – adding people haven’t planned for this kind of increase.

Mayor Pro-Tem Patricia Lockwood commented that timing is everything and she thinks people do value the water system more than ever but feels they would respond a bit more favorably if had a little more notice and a better understanding of why.

Others on Council seemed to agree that a plan to ram up to the recommend increase was needed and perhaps not everyone realized how large the hit would be. Some felt it would be wise to spend some time educating residents and businesses about state rules and mandates for costs related to replacing lead and copper pipes, saying the more educated people are the less the blowback.

City Manager Lynn Markland told Council the City has done a lot of things over the years to save costs but new mandates keep coming down from the EPA and the state, which keep driving up costs and Council and the public needs to understand that. He stated the City also needs to take care of critical infrastructure to prevent future disasters. Markland said the problem is that a lot program and requirements that state has put on municipalities and communities have just started to come up. He said they have made some adjustments over the last eleven years, noting as the sewer plant and bonds were paid off, they made some shifts over to water to lighten the sewer payment and thinks staff deserves some credit.

The City’s financial consultant will be back before Council at the April work session to further discuss the rate study and different options.