WO council rescinds recent water rates, approves new figures

White Oak officials went back to the drawing board one last time, just in time – right before new water rates were to go into effect, City Hall stopped short, hit pause and re-crafted their numbers for council consideration.
Legally-restricted in how many times they can adopt such rates, council members on May 7 took a series of unanimous votes rescinding recently-approved numbers and accepting others for implementation the first billing cycle after June 1.
Ostensibly, the changes mean average users will see their annual costs increase by approximately $360 annually, per city officials – about $30 more on monthly utility bills.
“This is doable. This is fair,” White Oak City Coordinator Jimmy Purcell insisted. “Our system, our rates and our tier system, was not broke. It just needed to be tweaked and brought up to where our current stuff is.”
The key elements of the new changes include increasing the in-city water base rate from $24.60 per month to $38 and upping the out-of-city rate from $36.90 to $57. The city will once again be charging users for their first 3,000 gallons – $2.85 inside the city, $4.28 outside – with a tier system and various charges for increased usage.
Sewer rates also change – increasing from $23.80 to $28 inside the city and from $35.10 to $42 outside with the price per thousand gallons increasing by 10-cents across the board.
Tap fees also increase by 10 percent inside and outside the city limits.
It’s part of a broad strategy to cover the city’s water-related expenses now and in the future with plans to set aside as much as $500,000 annually to cover depreciation and project costs.
“We were shooting for $300,000 but $300,000’s not going to cut it,” Mayor Kyle Kutsch said in April.
“On one project alone, Highway 42, we’re $1.3 million short,” Purcell agreed, blaming the passage of time and inflation.
The city needs to tweak the numbers a little more each year, council member Kevin Hood said during the water workshop, staying ahead of rising expenses.
“This is way more equitable than what we were talking about” in March, he added. “I like it better than what we were almost going to do.”
In other business last week, Kutsch, Hood and John Frazier took their oaths of office for new terms after running unopposed this election cycle.
The council members also unanimously-approved the appointment of Denny Kienzle to replace council member Dana Mizell in Place 1. Approved by council members last month to become municipal judge, Mizell will step down soon to succeed Jim Nall in the court post.
Nall, former fire chief, has been serving as judge since January 2020, Purcell said.
“He’s been a very big help to the city.”
In other unanimous votes, the council:
• denied a resident’s plan to install a sewer line on Person Road and, later, donate it to the city for ongoing maintenance;
• approved an extension of the city’s short term rental ban (i.e. AirBnBs and VRBOs) to include agricultural areas, effectively restricting such activity throughout the community except by special permit in multifamily zoning;
• approved White Oak Economic Development Corporation’s $20,000 performance agreement with Lundgren Agency to complete the insurer’s build-out at 102 W. White Oak Rd. Suite 4.

– By James Draper

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