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Roberts' water rate increase approved

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

After months of debate, The Village of Roberts is one step closer to setting a new water rate.

The Public Service Commission looked over the village's records and recommended a 23 percent increase for water. The village had been hoping to stay around 20 percent.

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"We're not happy that it is more heavy towards the residential areas," said Doreen Kruschke, village clerk. "But they (the PSC) said they would not reconsider that."

The village had been raising the water bill - which is separate from the sewer bill - five years in a row until 2003, then again in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010. Each time it was raised 3 percent.

However, since they are not covering the costs of production, the board members admitted that wasn't even beginning to scratch the surface of the mounting debt.

"We can't keep doing what we have been doing," said Willard Moeri, village president. "The worst case scenario was 27 percent and we ended up halfway in between. We either accept this proposal or continue going into debt."

With the 23 percent increase, the average household that uses 12,000 gallons of water would have an increased quarterly bill of $17.21, or an additional $5.75 month. The estimated revenue would be $43,059 to go toward retiring the debt.

Rand Waughtal, board member, agreed that the increase was necessary.

"Even the 21 percent is only a few dollars," he said. "It just looks bad when you put it in percentage form. I'd like to see our utilities get closer to breaking even."

However, a couple of board members still opposed the increase.

"I think with all our combined intelligence we could come up with other options," said Peter Tharp, board member. "This whole system seems askew."

"I don't think this is the time to come in with that kind of raise," agreed Don Gerhardt.

"If we came back in two-three years, their decision will be the same," said Moeri. "We may not like it, but we don't have a choice of how that lays down."

The board voted to move forward with the rate increase; however, a public hearing must be held before the rate increase can become official. The public hearing is scheduled for early December and, if approved, the rate change will go into effect Jan. 1. Users will see that change on their April billing.

The board had approved a 10 percent sewer increase back in July. The increase took effect Oct. 1, and users will see the change on their January billing.

In other news:

* John Bond, public works director, said that he is still working out options to get the treatment plant ready to be compliant with the new phosphorus requirements.

* The board approved the park board's recommendation to replace the 41-year-old windows in the park building.

* The board approved renewing the 3D Strategies contract, as recommended by the CDA.

* The board approved Ordinance #2011-2 private well abandonment.

* The board discussed getting the library staff a timeclock to match the other village departments.

* The board approved allowing the St. Croix Valley Bible Church to use the park building for one year at $100 a week.

* The board approved Village of Roberts' Christmas on Main event on Dec. 17 from 5-6 p.m.

* The board decided to table appointing a village building inspector until next month's meeting.

* The board approved paying A-1 Excavating the last library payment of $5,000.

* The board approved designating Jan. 2, 2012 as a floating holiday for village employees, since New Year's Day falls on a Sunday.

* The Village of Roberts board meets the second Monday of each month at 7 p.m. in the Village Hall. The public is welcome to attend.

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