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Hammond discovers $300,000+ sewer deficit

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New Richmond, 54017
New Richmond News
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New Richmond Wisconsin 127 South Knowles Avenue 54017

According to the 2010 audit in March, the Village of Hammond has seen a sewer deficit of $322,821 over the last three years.

Former Village President Vince Trudell mentioned the deficit in his "goodbye" speech at the April 11 regular board meeting.

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In his speech Trudell said, "The recent finding of an over $300,000 deficit in sewer funding means there are going to be some tough decisions ahead. With already one of the highest sewer and water rates in the State of Wisconsin, I think it's very important that the board takes this as an opportunity to get educated about the issue and not make any hasty decisions because this could have a long-term affect on the future of Hammond. I know there are ways for these things to be resolved, and I sincerely hope that the board will come to a resolution that will not put the burden on the residents of Hammond. I hope that the new board is ready to do what they were elected to do."

In an interview last week, Trudell told the News that it is "typical to run a little bit behind" in the sewer department, but says the board needs to find a solution to the growing problem as money taken out of the general fund to cover sewer costs leads to the taxpayers supplementing the sewer plant.

Since covering the costs of the deficit would fall on the taxpayers, Trudell said residents deserve to know what is happening, and that the board has never tried to hide anything.

"Our job is to figure out what to do with the problem. We need to make everyone aware of the deficit so it doesn't get overlooked," he said.

Trudell said he believes the deficit is a big deal.

"I don't want it to be ignored. It was going to be one of my goals in the next year, to get that under control," he said.

According to Trudell, some unplanned expenses contributed to the the deficit, such as a washed out road and fees for a diver to retrieve a broken part at the plant.

"I don't think you're ever going to have a year when you're not going to have any unexpected costs," he said.

Trudell said a lower number of new residents has also contributed to the sewer and water costs. As the board has discussed in the past, Hammond needs to draw in more residents for the village to thrive.

"The more users we have, the more chance we have of having a healthy sewer plant," he said.

Trudell said a lot of other villages and towns are in the same situation, and he commended Public Works Director Rod Turk for being proactive in finding solutions to the growing deficit.

Forgive and forget?

Trudell said some places forgive, but he didn't think forgiving or forgetting the deficit would have any positive impact on Hammond.

He said forgiving and forgetting the deficit, and operating as-is with exact costs would mean raising the rate 54 percent.

Trudell said raising fees would have an adverse effect on Hammond as a whole.

"If you don't fix the problem, you're sitting in the same place from now three years down the road -- or worse," he said.

Budget?

Trudell said Turk said it's uncommon for a sewer plant to have a budget, but Trudell said Hammond doesn't have to be like most places.

Trudell suggested the village set up a budget or monthly report update, to keep the community and board members aware of what money the sewer department brings in and what the department spends.

Trudell said all the numbers are out.

"Now it's a matter of talking to the auditor to look at those numbers and try to understand what is going on," he said.

The village board will be discussing the deficit in detail at the May 9 regular board meeting.

The village's financial adviser and auditor will be present at the meeting to answer questions.

"I don't know what the solution is. We have to reduce cost. I don't think anyone on the board would welcome another increase," he said.

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Gretta Stark
Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.
(715) 426-1048
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