— The Herrick Village Board approved its annual rise in water and sewer rates in their monthly meeting on Thursday, Feb. 10.
Water service will be increasing by five percent, while sewer service is increasing by 80 percent. The decision was met with some reluctance.
The average bill for a family of four with 4,000 gallons of water usage is currently $65. With the increase of $5.85, that bill will now be nearly $71. The breakdown of that increase is $3.25 for water and $2.60 for sewer.
The fee to turn on water service after shutoff for nonpayment will also increase by $50 to $75.
Trustee Thomas Suey cast the lone dissenting vote.
Bill adjustment part of water rate hike discussion
Michelle Miller came before the council requesting adjustment of a bill she received for $1,987.26 for 176,000 gallons in usage.
Miller’s property has three buildings connected to a water line, with a massive leak going undetected underneath one of the structures. The lead was found while doing work on her fence.
Maintenance supervisor Colton Heiserman concurred, describing what was frozen water in her yard.
The issue was brought up further when they had to consider what to charge.
$600 was discounted due to no water disposal into the sewer. The council would opt to charge the amount for the village to develop the water. That amount was $520, with arrangements to be worked out between the village and Miller.
Hesitation in approving rate hikes
Trustees Suey, Tom Moll, and Tashina Calame each expressed hesitation in approving the rate hikes. They each noted that there was no increase in the rates last fiscal year.
Village president Debbie Allen would steadfastly affirm the necessity of the rate hikes.
“It’s our only income,” stated Allen.
More discussion about the increase of the turnon fee after shut off for nonpayment. On a monthly basis, there are consistently ten people who don’t pay their bills. It was noted that most of them forget.
“Many consumers have an automatic deduction from a financial source,” noted trustee Josh Smith.
Policy on bill forgiveness for excessive water leaks
Further discussion on the incidence of excessive water leaks. Usually, forgiveness is only allowed once every three years. The forgiveness in the Miller case was a special case, despite having gotten a bill forgiven last year. The exception was due to the extraordinary volume of water loss in the leak.
Sewer adjustments on leaks will be considered when apparent, visible, and no water enters the sewer system. Heiserman and assistant Larry Beck will make the decision after taking photos and submitting them to water clerk Marilyn Bruns.
Bruns stated that the cost determination is based on four months of usage from the same period of the previous year. The cost is divided by five in the adjustment.
Ordinance enforcement in Herrick
Suey talked about the difficulty of enforcing rules and regulations in the village. Trustee Calame is currently the enforcement officer, and she responded that some offenders blatantly ignore letters of violation.
No letters were sent out since last fall. This is due to the Shelby County court halting all kinds of cases, except criminal and traffic.
Suey would like to have a neutral person take over enforcement duties instead of village officials. That consideration will be pursued.
Board balks at a low insurance settlement offer
Allen reported on an unsuccessful dealing with a Progressive agent regarding a vehicle that struck and knocked out the town water system’s H-frame late last year.
The repair bill is $17,021, but Progressive offered what Allen considered a raw deal.
“[It was a] pittance of $5,000,” stated Allen.
Allen contacted village attorney Steve Mahrt on the matter, and a recovery offer came in at $11,472.95. The village will have to cover the remaining cost of $5,500.
Mahrt noted that if the matter was taken to court, his fee would have to be deducted from the settlement. Court costs would be their damage if they lost in court.
Under state law, claim depreciation is allowed
, resulting in Progressive’s initially low offer.
The board agreed to accept the offer, paying the remaining amount from four funds.
Request for payment
Crawford Engineering submitted a $120,000 invoice for services provided during the past six to seven years. However, the amount is associated with the pending water project in the village.
Engineer William Lytle said the entire amount will be reimbursed by USDA Rural Development. When the closing of the loan takes place, the money will be released before construction begins. He mentioned that expenses incurred by the village relating to the project will be reimbursed.
Clerk-treasurer Michelle Shelite was not present at the meeting. Therefore, the matter was tabled until the March meeting due to no availability of financial information.
Closure of Davis Park in rural Herrick
Allen announced that Davis Park in rural Herrick has been closed by lockdown. Recently, a vehicle or vehicles cut deep ruts in the grounds, causing considerable damage. It will take plenty of work to restore the site.
Other meeting notes
After a brief executive session, an hourly raise to $14 was granted for Bruns.
The other topic during the executive session involved discussion on closed session minutes review of the past year. Those minutes will remain closed to the public.
The cook shack at Carroll Park has two major items needing removal: a weighty iron stove and a grill. They are no longer needed for the operation of the building. The Park Committee will be asked for permission to remove the items.
Millie Meyerholz is a freelance journalist with many decades of journalistic experience.