City of Emporia Finance Director Janet Harrouff updated city commissioners on her findings regarding state utility fees during a study session Wednesday morning.
A comparison between water usage, solid waste and sewer fees between Emporia and 15 other comparable cities in Kansas revealed local rates to be near the middle of the pack in most cases, with some actually placing near the bottom of the list.
“Considering the state average for water, [the rates] are substantially less,” Harrouff said. “We fall about $11 less than the state average. I did this same analysis about two or three years ago and everybody had gone up substantially since that last analysis. It looked like everybody was doing increases of about 3 to 5 to 10 percent every single year.”
Harrouff said total utility bills for the average Emporia family — one which uses about 5,000 gallons of water a month — would most likely come in around $85 if proposed rate increases were finalized in November. The average monthly utility bill in Emporia currently sits at about $78.92.
“The state average for sewer rates is $61.08, our current charge is $36.04 with using the 5,000 gallons,” Harrouff said. “So, you can see we’re significantly below state averages in some areas.”
Vice Mayor Danny Giefer said he hoped citizens would realize prospective rate increases weren’t just arbitrarily chosen to take effect in the coming months. Rather, it was because several past projects were all coming to a head at the same time.
“The big thing is that if we had just bumped water up or if we just bumped sewer or trash up, then the effect wouldn’t have been so noticeable,” Giefer said. “But we had to in order to pay the bills. We had to bump all three because of the work on the sewer plant and making modifications out there. Curbside recycling, which was advertised as free for the first couple years before it’s going to start dipping into our reserves. Two years turned into five and it caught up with us there. I think that’s what citizens are seeing with their water bills — what they call their water bills — but it’s really all three that have jumped.”
In other business, commissioners discussed upcoming renovations to Eastside Park.
“We received $90,000 from [the Jones Trust], and in taking to Al [Slappy], his [Emporia Eastside Community Group] has approximately $15,000 to $17,000 saved for this,” City Manager Mark McAnarney said. “We also have about $15,000 from donations over the year and left over bond money that was issued for this project. We’re also going to try to secure a few more grants.
“We’re working with the Eastside Group to make sure this is something everybody wants, but we think we have the money to do it and we’re very fortunate to be able to finish up the park.”
The project, which seeks to update the basketball courts, add new surfacing to playground areas and construct new sidewalks, may be completed by the end of the year. The final cost has yet to be figured, but an initial quote of $81,000 has been suggested for surfacing costs.