Studies help with future: Studies to help determine utility prices

Cost-of-service studies on utility rates charged to Wapakoneta consumers should help city elected officials determine future increases to deal with higher costs of business and mandated projects.
Wapakoneta City Council Councilor-at-large Steve Walter, who also chairs the Utility Committee, told city administrators he would like to have rate studies completed on water, wastewater, electric and refuse to help his committee set future rates.
“The 2010 rate study gave us confidence that our electric rates are in line with what they need to be and they are covering the true operating costs of our power purchases,” Walter said. “There is no cross subsidizing among commercial, residential and industrial, however our energy consultant’s comment at that time for our ‘commercial and residential customer charges at that time’ thought our truck roll or callout fees were low and we were going to look at those and make a recommendation and we did neither. That is something we want to look at in 2012.”
John Courtney with Courtney & Associates of Findlay is the city’s energy consultant and adviser. Truck roll or callout fees are when crews are dispatched to a household after hours and the problem is determined to be the customer’s responsibility.
Walter reported a water cost-of-service study by Courtney & Associates should be completed and returned to the city in 2012. Safety-Service Director Bill Rains explained most of the data for the study was provided by city Water Department personnel.
He said he intends to use city personnel to collect the data for future studies based on a template for water rates. Since the wastewater rate is related to consumer water usage, he explained city personnel could extrapolate a wastewater rate study easily.
Rains also said he believes city personnel in the Public Works Department could develop a cost-of-service study for refuse collection.
“We need to verify that our rates are where they should be at,” Walter told Mayor Rodney Metz and Rains.
Walter said he would like a rate study and information on financing so they are not constantly financing the next phase of a project or maintenance of a utility. Future planning should provide some relief to the city or the city’s consumers.
Councilor-at-large Tom Finkelmeier Jr. said he would like city administrators to provide a chart with cost-of-living adjustments on utilities so they know when increases are coming and what increases have already been put in place.
“I believe for virtually every utility we need a cost-of-service study completed to give us a reality check,” Finkelmeier said. “We don’t need a sword held over our head regarding capital improvement or replacement projects.”
Rains said he is stressing with department superintendents that ‘we have a progressive council and we do want to set aside money each year for projects to maintain our equipment and replace necessary equipment before we have to do a major overhaul.”