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Utility fees could increase for Jamestown residents

The Jamestown Finance and Legal Committee unanimously approved without recommendation on Tuesday, Nov. 22, adjustments to utility rates effective in 2023.

water meter for 122221
The monthly water meter fee would increase in 2023 if the Jamestown City Council approves adjustments to utility rates at its next meeting on Dec. 5. Once new water meters are installed, they will more accurately measure water use, and residences and businesses will be charged by gallons used rather than by cubic feet.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun file photo
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JAMESTOWN – Utility fees will increase for residents and they will also be charged to take inert materials and garbage to the city baler if the Jamestown City Council approves the proposed rates for 2023.

The Jamestown Finance and Legal Committee unanimously approved without recommendation on Tuesday, Nov. 22, adjustments to utility rates. If approved by the City Council, the new utility rates will go into effect in 2023.

Mayor Dwaine Heinrich said the proposed increases need to be studied before the City Council acts on it at its next meeting on Dec. 5.

Tyler Michel, public works director, said a committee consisting of himself, Councilman David Steele, City Engineer Travis Dillman, City Administrator Sarah Hellekson and Shawn O’Neill, sanitation foreman, looked at the utility rates.

A $5 flat rate per month for a water distribution fee was proposed that would be added to all residential and commercial utility bills.

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Heinrich said the city of Jamestown is paying 70% of special assessments for four water main replacement project and there has to be "some give and take there."

“The money has got to come from somewhere so the water utility as an entity obviously needs a little bit more income as well,” he said.

Michel said residents would pay $5 more per month with the proposed water distribution fee. But residents would not get a $20,000 special assessment for a water line project.

“You might only get a $7,000 special assessment on some of the bigger ones,” he said.

Michel said the whole city would be paying the proposed water distribution fee, which is what many other communities are doing. He said the funds would be put into an account for future projects.

“When they get enough money built up, they go and do a project,” he said.

Water utility rates will stay the same for residential, multi-unit rentals, mobile homes and commercial or industrial businesses.

Other proposed changes include increasing the water meter fee and raising fees for having some garbage containers and leaving the container at a residence while residents are gone. The city of Jamestown would also charge an extra 25 cents from $1.75 to $2 to dispose of fluorescent or mercury-vapor bulbs.

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A 20% increase was also recommended for commercial service rates for regular garbage collection due to increased costs of fuel, labor, equipment and capital costs, Michel said.

Eliminating free garbage drop-off

The committee discussed eliminating the 500-pound free drop-off per month of garbage or inert materials such as construction debris for anybody with a city of Jamestown utility bill and continuing to do the citywide cleanup once a year, he said.

“Then there was another item that we talked about doing, which I don’t think has been fully vetted yet … and it’s more of a policy change, is a minimum of a $5 charge at the baler,” he said. “So every time someone comes out there, it’s a minimum of $5, but everything would be based on weight still.”

He said the cost to take inert construction materials to the landfill would cost $12.50 for 500 pounds and the cost to take garbage there would be just under $20 for 500 pounds.

“We know there are people that are not in the city that are going out there and dropping the stuff off too and it’s hard to identify that all the time,” Heinrich said. “There are people out there on Saturday staffing the place and sometimes out there all day, so there is no way to pay for the help that is out there on Saturdays.”

Steele said the city of Jamestown is one of the only cities in the state that currently offers the 500-pound free drop off.

Garbage container fees

Increases for having garbage containers were also proposed. Residences with 65-gallon containers would see an increase from $16.50 per month to $18 per month. Rental units, mobile homes and businesses would see increases to $19.60 per month for each 95-gallon container. The current cost for each 95-gallon container is $15.50 per month for commercial living and rental units and $17.25 per month for mobile homes and businesses.

3573364+080917.N.JS_.GarbageCans.jpg
Increases for having garbage containers were proposed during the Jamestown Finance and Legal Committee meeting Tuesday, Nov. 23, at City Hall. Residences with 65-gallon containers would see an increase from $16.50 per month to $18 per month. Rental units, mobile homes and businesses would see increases for each 95-gallon container on their monthly utility bills.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun file photo

Standby charges would increase to $20 per month for residential, rental units, mobile home courts and businesses. A standby charge is a minimum monthly fee to keep a garbage container at a residence in case somebody is gone for a certain period of time. Current monthly standby charges are $15.50 per month for commercial living, rental units and businesses and $17.25 per month for mobile homes.

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Water meter fees

Michel said the water meter fees have not been increased since 1967. The following are the proposed increases per month for water meter fees:

  • Five-eighths-inch water meter: from 60 cents to $1.20. 
  • Three-fourths-inch water meter: from 90 cents to $1.80. 
  • 1-inch water meter: from $1.20 to $2.40.
  • 1.25-inch water meter: from $1.50 to $3.
  • 1.5-inch water meter: from $2.50 to $5. 
  • 2-inch water meter: from $3.50 to $7.
  • 3-inch water meter: from $4.50 to $9. 
  • 4-inch water meter: from $5.50 to $11. 
  • 6-inch water meter: from $8.50 to $17. 
  • 8-inch water meter: from $11 to $22. 
  • Over 8-inch water meters: from $74.03 to $148.06.

Joseph Rowell, water superintendent, said roughly about 50% of residences have a five-eighths-inch or a three-fourths-inch water meter.
Dillman said after the meeting new water meters will probably be installed in residences and businesses sometime in the winter of 2023-24 with the work finishing in the summer of 2024 because of supply-chain issues. He said the city is working on the selection of water meters and the design.

Michel said once the new water meters are installed, which more accurately read water use, residences and businesses will be charged by gallons used rather than by cubic feet. Currently, the city charges monthly for a minimum of 400 cubic feet or 2,992 gallons of water for residences and businesses. Multi-unit rentals and mobile homes are charged monthly for a minimum of 200 cubic feet of water used.

“If we have a bad meter at their house, where the meter is not spinning but they are getting a whole bunch of water then people are going to be charged more,” he said. “Some of the older people and people who are single, maybe their water bill is probably going to be less.”

He said water-meter vendors have said new water meters will pay for themselves in about five to eight years because the larger water users will get billed appropriately.

Masaki Ova joined The Jamestown Sun in August 2021 as a reporter. He grew up on a farm near Pingree, N.D. He majored in communications at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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