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|Katz questions costs of city water project|
The Monroe City Council took another step in beginning a $57-million project to overhaul the city's water system.
During Tuesday's regular city council meeting, the council agreed to advertise for bids to replace water meters throughout the city.
That project is estimated to cost $7.5 million.
Public Works officials have estimated that the city loses $700,000 a year in water revenue due to the poor readings of its water meters.
In 2006, the council agreed to implement water rate increases to help pay for the $57-million project. Water rates were increase from $1.25 to $2 per 1,000 gallons of water used each month. That increase took effect in 2007. Water rates eventually will be raised to $2.44 (per 1,000 gallons used) by 2010.
The new rates generate about $1 million to $2 million annually, which will fund up to $30 million to $60 million (over the next 30 years) for the water system improvements.
Councilman Ben Katz questioned if the city would have enough revenue for improvements. He raised that question after learning the water meter project's cost had increased substantially.
Monroe director of administration David Barnes said when the city began efforts to begin the water meter replacement project, the cost was $4 million.
Now the city expects it to cost up to $7.5 million.
"If we don't have enough cash, then we're going to have to go to bonds," Barnes said. "That's the only thing we can do."
Katz said, "It's about $60 million for what we want to do, and this is the first step … do we have the revenue in order to do the rest of the program? That $57 million didn't have an $8 million water meter replacement project. I'm assuming that $57 million dollar number is no longer good."
Barnes agreed, adding, "That $57 million number was complied more than a year and a half ago. But we'll do the water projects as we have the funds available. We're not going to do a $57 million bond issue and wait for a project to come up."
Katz responded, saying, "The last time we did this, we got into the sewer business. We were going to fix the whole sewer system. My question is do we have enough money to spend $57 million on water improvements … do we have the ability to generate revenue to do the system?"
Barnes said, "Based on information we have now, no. But the intent is to do the projects as they come up. If we have two projects for $10 million, that's all we're going to borrow … we're not going to borrow $57 million to wait for a project to come up."
Monroe's Public Works director Tom Janway has told the city council that Monroe's water system faces a possible shutdown until improvements are made to the aging system.