The city of Hutchinson is looking at possible changes to its sanitary sewer and water rates in an effort to make them more equitable and to meet Department of Natural Resources requirements.
Along with other possible changes is another: users will pay for how much they used from the past month instead of paying an average of their usage from January and February throughout the year.
Proposed for sanitary sewer rates is a change from the flat base monthly rate of $6.41 for all meter sizes to a monthly rate based on size.
"At your home today, you pay the same base charge as 3M pays on a meter," said City Engineer Kent Exner.
On the low end is the average 3/4-inch residential meter, which will have a base rate of $10. A one-inch meter will have a base rate of $25.
“Your larger industrial/commercial type users, if they have a 4-inch meter ... they will be charged $250 a month.” Exner said. “That’s truly accounting for the capacity that’s available to those users. It might drive specific users, commercial/industrial, to downsize their readers. We understand that. But this is the fairest way to go about this, where your lower-end users are paying their share, yes, at $10. But on the other end your higher-end users with a 4-inch, 6-inch meter, that have the ability to take on that much water … they should be paying their fair share on the top end."
Multi-family units will pay $6.50 per unit.
All users will continue to pay $6.42 per 1,000 gallons, but with an addendum. If, for instance, a user has 6,000 gallons metered, they would pay roughly $38. But if 3,000 of that is irrigated, and an irrigation meter is installed to show that, 3,000 gallons would be cut off the charge with a credit.
"So instead of paying roughly $38, you'll be paying $10 (for a 3/4-inch meter) plus $19, and that will get reduced off your waste water bill," Exner said.
"The real benefit comes for people who water their yard quite a bit," City Administrator Matt Jaunich said.
As for water rates, the blanket $7.35 base rate for all meters will be based on meter size as well, with a 3/4-inch residential meter at $9, on up to $450 for a 6-inch meter. Multi-family units will pay $5.85 per unit. Commodity rates will be split into three blocks:
- Residential users who use up to 6,000 gallons will pay $3 per 1,000 gallons, down from $4.34.
- Residential users who use up to 12,000 gallons will pay $3.75 per 1,000 gallons, down from $4.34.
- Residential users who use more than 12,000 gallons will pay $4.69 per 1,000 gallons, up from $4.34.
Non-residential users will pay $3 per 1,000 gallons, a change from a range of $2.36 to $4.34 per 1,000 gallons.
"This is really what the DNR and state is requiring of municipalities," Exner said. "Really what they want to do is crack down on residential users to encourage conservation measures. Primarily that's irrigation related, but they also realize if you have a tiered structure that should incline people to take measures ... to decrease water use."
Exner said he expects the changes would mean low-end users would pay about the same or less than before overall, while multi-unit properties would see the worst from the changes.
Water for irrigation will be charged $4.69 per 1,000 gallons. An irrigation meter will prevent the water from being counted and charged toward the sewer charge as well.
City Council has allowed city staff to begin working on the changes and reaching out to residents and businesses. City staff are able to help explain the changes for individual cases. The changes will be reviewed for approval for 2022 later this year.