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Saturday, June 30th, 2007

Council looks toward charging flat price for water treatment project

By Timothy Cox
Celina's planned water treatment improvement project will cost users an estimated $6.05 per month if divided equally among residential and commercial water customers.
City administration officials seem to favor a flat charge earmarked for the improvement project. Celina City Council members previously discussed an increase in consumption-based water rates to pay for the work.
No decisions have been made, and it will be up to council how the debt on the proposed water improvements will be paid down.
Council members and administration officials meeting Thursday said they believe a monthly flat fee is the best way to charge customers for capital improvements.
The $6.05 charge is based on the city borrowing $6 million to pay for planned improvements to the city's water system. The charges would run for 20 years, based on an interest rate of 3.25 percent.
City council members said many residents are wondering how much the project will affect their pocketbooks. Many are fearing the worst after construction bids for the project recently came in so high they had to be scrapped.
The city now has revised its bid specifications and is seeking a new round of bids.
City officials justified their support for a flat monthly charge by saying it is the fairest plan. The proposal also would charge individual apartment and mobile home residents the same residential rate. Most such complexes now have a single master water meter, and the landlords pay a commercial rate for water.
Council members also discussed whether commercial properties should pay a higher rate. The consensus was that higher costs for businesses might not be fair.
The planned improvements to the water system are based on improving the water for human consumption, which means most businesses, especially industries, won't really benefit from the project. Council members also noted that many small businesses likely use less water than a typical residence.
City officials agreed to continue discussion on how the project should be paid for and to take public input on the issue.
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