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DeKalb water system focus of study

Published: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 9:28 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 9:33 p.m. CDT

DeKALB – By the end of this year, city of DeKalb leaders should know what repairs its water system needs and whether water rates need to change to pay for those repairs.

The city will pay engineering firm Burns and McDonnell almost $48,000 to complete a water system master plan that will include a review of the city's water infrastructure, giving officials an idea what will need to be replaced. The firm also will review the city's water rates to see if they can support system operations and capital projects.

“They may be sufficient,” said Bryan Faivre, the assistant director of public works. “The fact that we're doing a water study does not mean we're raising rates.”

The city annually increases rates based on the consumer price index. The last increase above that was in 2011, when the city increased water rates by 10 percent, Faivre said.

Residents currently pay $3.10 cents per unit, plus a $15 quarterly water service fee. An average family of four pays about $30 a month for water, Faivre said.

The fees pay to support the city's water distribution system, including 177 miles of water mains. Faivre said the city has up to 60 water main breaks a year and that more than half of the city's water mains are more than 50 years old

“At some point that is going to need to be addressed,” Faivre said. “As to when they get replaced is up for debate.”

The city's water fund is an enterprise fund, meaning its revenues have to support operations. At the end of the fiscal year that started July 1, the water fund is expected to have $5.5 million in revenue and $5.6 million in expenses, with the deficit being covered by reserves.

The firm is doing the rate study in conjunction with a water master plan, which Public Works Director T.J. Moore said would be an update to one completed in 2006. Consultants will give the city an idea of what needs to be fixed in the next 15 years, how much those repairs will cost and if water rates need to change to support those capital projects.

When the consultants complete their study, they will present the findings to the city council. Moore said he expected that presentation to happen near the end of the year.

“I would really like to have a plan that helps us prepare for the future,” Moore said.

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