The war of words between the City of Smithville and the DeKalb Utility District over increases in water rates continues.
City Secretary-Treasurer Hunter Hendrixson issued a statement to WJLE Friday morning on behalf of the Mayor and Aldermen in response to DUD's notice last week that rates to customers who receive water purchased by the DUD from the city will be increased by 42% or $4.30 per thousand gallons effective with the January billing.
DUD officials say the increase is necessary to help offset the 144% rate increase the City imposed on the DUD effective January 1. The DUD must now pay the city $5.00 per thousand gallons, an increase from the rate of $2.05 per thousand gallons the DUD had been paying.
"The DUD has an opportunity to discuss their new rate at the next Smithville Mayor and Board of Aldermen meeting on February 3 at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall if they are indeed concerned about their new rate," said city officials in the response.
City officials claim the DUD has enjoyed extremely low water rates from Smithville over the last three decades and that the rate has only increased by 90 cents per thousand gallons in the last 34 years.
"Since 1979, DUD’s water rate per 1,000 gallons has increased only 90 cents. Their 1979 rate was $1.15 and their 2013 rate was $2.05. That’s only 90 cents in 34 years," according to city officials.
The city response continues as follows:
"The City of Smithville Water Treatment Plant produces 1,000 gallons of water for $2.67 per the 2013 Water Cost Study conducted by Warren and Associates of Lebanon. Again, DUD’s rate was $2.05 per 1,000 gallons in 2013, 62 cents less than the City’s cost to produce. But they (DUD) still raised their customer’s rates 7% in 2013."
"DUD’s customers have already endured a 14% rate increase since 2012 with another 7% rate hike projected for 2014 to fund a water treatment plant that has yet to even begun construction".
"According to their 2013 audit, the DeKalb Utility District shows a long term debt obligation of over $4,000,000.00 but they want to borrow millions more to construct an unnecessary water treatment plant. Currently, the City of Smithville Water and Sewer Department enjoy ZERO debt."
"The Smithville Board of Aldermen has invited DUD’s Board on numerous occasions to sit down and work out a new water rate for 2014. Other than a few mail correspondences their board never responded to the City’s request to a meeting dating back to early 2012. DUD did attend the November 11, 2013 workshop by the Aldermen to discuss new rates for DUD. They were asked by the Mayor and Aldermen if they had any input or comments on their rates for 2014. The DUD Board sat silently. It’s hard to negotiate a new rate if the other side is unwilling to speak."
"It’s obvious the DeKalb Utility District has enjoyed extremely low water rates while the citizens of Smithville have been subsidizing DUD’s low rates over the years."
DUD representatives, in response to the city's statement, said "If the City of Smithville has undercharged DeKalb Utility District for the past ten years and the City of Smithville has ZERO debt, why has the City chosen to spend tens of thousands of taxpayer’s dollars to prevent DUD from building a treatment plant? The City of Smithville should be relieved DeKalb Utility District does not want to be their customer".