PSC says 3 percent water rate increase not enough for Wheeler

By LeAnn R. Ralph

WHEELER — The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin has sent a letter to the Village of Wheeler saying that the municipality must file for a water rate increase within 60 days.
At the August meeting, the Wheeler Village Board approved a 3 percent water utility rate increase and a 25 percent sewer utility rate increase.

The PSC accepted the 3 percent water rate increase, but “they are not happy,” said James Carter, village president, at the Wheeler Village Board’s September 12 meeting.
Municipalities in Wisconsin can file for what is known as a “simple rate increase” in the amount of 3 percent for water utilities. Larger increases require additional paperwork and PSC
review and recommendations.

Village boards can increase the rates on deregulated sewer utilities at the percentage they determine is necessary without filing with the PSC for a rate increase.
The sewer and water rate increases were based on a recommendation from the village’s auditor, Tom Kortas of LarsonAllen LLP, to alleviate cash flow problems for the sewer and water utilities.

In 2011, for example, the village transferred more than $40,000 from the general fund to the utilities.

As a result of transferring money to the utilities, the village’s general fund also has been experiencing cash flow problems, prompting the village board to authorize short-term borrowing in the amount of $100,000 at the August meeting.

Sean Lentz of Ehlers Associates has recommended that the village maintain a general fund balance of $200,000 to eliminate annual cash flow borrowing.

The payment for the state trust fund loan would be around $7,500 annually and would need to be added to the 2013 tax levy that will be collected in 2014.

The Wheeler Village Board could use the payments that are based on the tons of sand shipped out of Wheeler by Fairmount Minerals/Wisconsin Industrial Sand to pay off the state trust fund loan, according to Lentz.

After the Village of Wheeler has filed for a water rate increase, the PSC will review the application and will recommend what the agency determines is an appropriate increase.
Sewer and water rates were last increased in Wheeler in 2007.

Before that, Carter said, it had been 25 years since sewer and water rate increases had been implemented.

The sewer and water rate increases approved by the Wheeler Village Board at the August meeting will go into effect on September 30 for the months of July, August and September.

Other business

In other business, the Wheeler Village Board:

• Learned that Carter had signed the agreement with the Boyceville Fire District after the village board had approved becoming part of the district at the August meeting. The Wheeler Village Board had asked to have 90 days to pay invoices from the fire district instead of the 45 days listed on the agreement, but Carter said he had been unable to make that change on the agreement.

• Set the Open Book for Tuesday, October 23, from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

• Set the Board of Review for Tuesday, October 23, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

• Set the regular monthly village board meeting for October 23 at 7:30 p.m. Robin Goodell,
village clerk-treasurer, noted that she expects to be asked to testify at the trial for former Wheeler police chief Gary Wayerski scheduled in Dunn County Circuit Court October 8 through 12, and that the October village board meeting has been rescheduled because of the trial. The Wheeler Village Board normally meets on the second Tuesday of the month.