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Still a deal at any cost

Monday night West Fargo City Commissioners approved first reading of water and sanitation rates increases. The hikes were needed to balance the water and sewer and sanitation department budgets for the new 2011 calendar year.

If the ordinance receives second and final reading, the current minimum service charge of $7 for the first 2,000 gallons of water used will remain the same. The change will be an increase of 50 cents per 1,000 gallons for additional water usage over the 2,000 gallon base amount for both residential and commercial users, with the most recent increase in Jan. 2009.

The sanitation rate will go up $1 only for residential users, taking the monthly rate from its current $10 to $11.

Commercial users will not see any increase since the amount of sanitation service they use is based on criteria different from residential usage.

City officials opted for the increase during 2011 budget discussions in order to make the water and sanitation department budgets self-sustaining, since expenses need to match revenues.

The move will generate an approximate $338,500 in additional water and sewer revenues that will be used to cover new debt service payments for revenue bonds and new equipment. The approximate $90,000 that will be generated through sanitation increases will be used to hire two new employees in the new calendar year to help keep up with the city's growth.

City officials also found out after the 2011 budget was approved that Fargo's tipping charges for West Fargo's garbage that is hauled to the Fargo landfill, have gone up, so some of the increase will more that likely be applied to that, in doing so, maybe even leaving the West Fargo budget a little shy.

No matter how anyone feels about these utility hikes, they are still a 'good deal' for the city's residential and commercial users for the services they receive in return.

Interestingly, recent statistics released through a North Central Utility rate survey show that West Fargo charges the lowest utility rate in North Dakota among the states 14 largest cities, at $38 for a typical total monthly utility bill.