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Cottage Grove revamps water, sewer rate structure; rates raise Jan. 1

The city is increasing rates as users go above 6,000 gallons of water a month to encourage conservation efforts. Rates increase after each additional 3,000 gallons used. Courtesy of the city of Cottage Grove

Municipal water and sewer users will pay higher rates starting Jan. 1 under the city's new tiered utility structure.

The new system focuses on a tiered usage system where the more water a household uses, the more is paid. The tiers are meant to encourage conservation.

"If you're staying at 6,000 (gallons), your water rates basically aren't going to increase at all," engineer Nate Estrem said.

State law and the Department of Natural Resources have asked cities with a population over 1,000 to add a conservation element to municipal water service, especially during peak usage in the summer months. The DNR set a goal of 75 gallons used per person per day.

During last summer's watering ban due to perfluorochemical levels in city wells, "a lot of us learned new and innovative ways to conserve water," Mayor Myron Bailey said, that may be translated into water usage under the new rate structure.

The increased base water change will be rolled out over 2018 and 2019.

In 2018, the base rate on a single-family residence will increase from $1.50 to $2.25, and to $3 in 2019. Similarly, multi-family housing will increase from $1.50 to $1.69 in 2018 and $2.25 in 2019, as well as changing from a per connection rate to per unit.

The tiered system depends on the amount of water used for single-family, multi-family and commercial uses. From 0 to 6,000 gallons, users are charged $1.18 for every 1,000 gallons. The per 1,000 gallon charge increases each 3,000 gallons used.

Just over 60 percent of city users use less than 6,000 gallons a month.

"On very heavy users, that conservation fee ... is going to be put in a bucket to utilize to promote conservation options in the community," Bailey said.

The top five users in Cottage Grove are the two Pinecliff homeowners associations, Park High School, Up North Plastics and the Mississippi Dunes Townhome Association.

Sanitary sewer base rates will also roll out over the coming years, from $1.75 for single-family and commercial base rates to $3 in 2018 and $4.25 in 2019. Like for water, multi-family will move from per connection to per unit rates, jumping from $1.75 to $3 in 2018 and $4.25 in 2019.

Each 1,000 gallons will cost $3.45 in 2018 and $3.75 in 2019.

The city expects a 1 percent increase annually after 2019 for both sanitary sewer base rate and usage.

They are considering programs such as smart irrigation controller rebates to help residents meet conservation goals.

The city last increased its rates in 2008.

The city council voted 5-0 to approve the new rates Dec. 20 after a study beginning in April with consulting firm SEH.