Council to consider establishing a sewer commission for 2020

Council to consider establishing a sewer commission for 2020

In an October 17th memo to the City Council, mayor Mike Bawden, provided some initial thoughts on setting up a City Sewer Commission for 2020. The item is one of several slated for the COMMITTEE REPORTS section of next Tuesday’s City Council Meeting (to be held at 10/22/19).

Mike Bawden, Mayor of Riverdale

In the memo, Mayor Bawden, said the time was right to consider such a proposal, given the fact that the City of Riverdale is “fast approaching a point where we’ll have a good handle on the anticipated costs of infrastructure upgrades that will need to be made at the Waste Water Treatment Plant in West Davenport. That is the plant that services all of Riverdale’s sewage, which is conveyed to the plant through an extensive network of pipes running from Panorama Park through Riverdale and Bettendorf to Davenport.

The expected increase in costs to the City and the fact that rates have not been adjusted for quite some time mean sewer rates in Riverdale are likely to rise quickly and dramatically. The purpose of a City Sewer Commission, then, is to provide residents with an opportunity to participate in the conversations and decision-making process when it comes to building, maintaining and paying for the system.

Sewer Rates are Expected to Rise in 2020

With the memo specifically mentioning rates, Mayor Bawden provides the following information:

The City of Riverdale’s rates have not been adjusted in many years, resulting in on-going losses in the City’s Sewer Fund. Infrastructure repairs need to be paid from this fund, as well, and this past year, the Council had to move money from our General Fund to the Sewer Fund to cover that expense. While this is allowable (and we had the cash to do it), in the future, we may need to issue bonds to cover infrastructure repairs/enhancements deemed necessary by the Council.

Commission Structure and Responsibilities

According to Mayor Bawden, the Sewer Commission would be designed to operate in a manner very similar to the City’s Planning & Zoning Commission:

Much like the Planning & Zoning Commission, the Sewer Commission would meet once a quarter in a public meeting (with a posted agenda and minutes) to hear presentations, conduct their deliberations, and vote on their recommendations. Official “actions” (e.g. authorizing expenditures, setting rates, etc.) would be taken by the City Council using the research and recommendations of the commission as an important source of information.

 

Every meeting held by the Sewer Commission would include, at a minimum, a financial report on the fiscal health of the sewer fund, a collections report identifying who is delinquent in paying their sewer fees, a projection of sewer fund viability at current/proposed rates, and appropriate monitoring reports on flow and other quality metrics deemed necessary by the commission.

 

The commission would be managed by a Sewer Commission Administrator (most likely the City Administrator) to make sure notices are posted and information is made available according to the State of Iowa’s Sunshine Laws. The chair of the commission would be expected to attend meetings of the Joint Sewerage Commission – the 28E that’s being formed by Davenport, Bettendorf, Riverdale and Panorama Park to oversee the operation of the 1973 Trunk Line, the Waste Water Treatment Plant and the Compost Facility.

So, what do you think of this idea? Let us know in the comments section, below …

Sewer rates expected to rise in 2020.

Sewer rates expected to rise in 2020.

City officials have been telling Riverdale residents their sewer rates are unrealistically low for over two years. And now, after years of discussion and planning, costs for the shared sewer line running from Panorama Park to West Davenport have been determined by a joint body representing all of those communities.

That means the City of Riverdale can now re-set its sewer rates for residents to reflect the actual costs of belonging to this common utility.

While rates are expected to be re-set significantly higher than they have been in Riverdale, it’s expected that the rates will still be at or below rates for homeowners in Bettendorf or Davenport. Rates in Riverdale are currently as much as 80% lower than costs experienced by some Davenport homeowners.

So why has it taken Riverdale so long to re-set its rates?

There are two big factors that affect Riverdale residents’ sewer rates: determining how much of Riverdale’s “flow” is the result of commercial activity from Arconic and finalizing the cost of improvements to the jointly-owned waste water treatment plant required by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). That information now appears to be at-hand and negotiations with the IDNR to extend performance deadlines have also helped reduce costs to a degree.

The City’s plan, as it currently stands, is to start re-working calculations for sewer rates to reflect the current flow rates, planned improvements/upgrades to the City’s sewer lines (to reduce “inflow & infiltration” and, thereby decreasing flow to lower costs), and projected capital improvements at the waste water treatment plant in West Davenport. Ideally, that work will involve the new City Treasurer (assuming a satisfactory candidate can be found expeditiously).

Once preliminary calculations are done, the City will host an open meeting with the public to walk through the issues, process used to calculate the new sewer rates, projected effects of adding homes in the Woods Estates development and to solicit feedback.

There is no delay expected in first-quarter billing for 2020 at this time.