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COUNCIL APPROVES LAWS HIKING WATER, SEWER RATES BY 6%

Water and sewer rates will increase 6 percent effective Friday under local laws approved Monday night by the Common Council.

City officials said the average homeowner will see an increase of $6 per quarter or $24 per year. The higher bills will begin in January. The city expects to see $250,000 to $300,000 in additional revenue from the increases.

The required public hearing was also held Monday night. William Reardon, Fairview Avenue, said the public hearing should have been held before the law was passed, not after.

"The city should give the taxpayers credit on their property taxes for the sewer and water bills. Property taxes are out of sight," he said.

Mayor Margaret Wuerstle said revenue at the wastewater treatment plant is down because the ice cream manufacturer has its own pretreatment plant and does not send the city so-called "strong sewage" to treat. The city charges more for strong sewage.

She said the city had to transfer $500,000 from the general fund to make up a deficit in the wastewater fund.

The sewer rate increase was approved 3 to 2, with First Ward Councilman Chet Kozlowski and Fourth Ward Councilman John Woloszyn opposed.

"The increase is a detriment to taxpayers and industries that have hard times," Woloszyn said.

"One-third of the city properties are tax exempt," Third Ward Councilman Paul Van Den Vouver said. "The increase in the fee gets everyone."

Second Ward Councilman Donald Stoyle said: "I wanted another solution, but there was a $500,000 hole in the budget. If the rates were not passed, the tax increase would be $2 above the $3.96 proposed by the mayor."

Councilman at Large Frank Gawronski said the city must find additional water customers, and Mayor Wuerstle told the Council the city is working with the Town of Portland on increasing usage in an expanded district. Gawronski wants the city to look at serving part of the Village of Fredonia.

After the meeting, Mayor Wuerstle said the city has water contracts with outside districts that include a share of the property taxes. Commercial properties served by the city pay taxes to the city based on a formula, in addition to higher water rates. Sewer rates for outside districts are also higher than those in the city.

Kozlowski cast the only vote against the increase in the water rates.

"A year ago, we were told that the city was in great financial shape and had $1.7 million surplus. Where is it?" he asked.

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