Stetsonville Water Rate Proposal Makes Waves 5/22/18
The residents of Stetsonville will be taking part in a financial “catch up” with their water rates slated to increase over 50%. A public hearing on the rate increase was held Tuesday, May 22nd, involving Michael Newmark, an official of the Public Service Commission and nearly 20 Stetsonville residents. Village Clerk Shawn Sullivan told the group that the 7 year old water system has a debt of $2.19 million and has major concerns trying to make debt payments of $84,000 per year with revenues of just $150,000. Since going online, the total water usage was considerably lower than originally projected. At the hearing it was noted that the village has experienced just one increase in rates of 3% over the past 7 years. Some neighboring communities have experienced increases of 3% annually, and one had an increase of 134%. It was noted that the total cost of the Stetsonville water system was high is due to the fact that it was so new and not 80 years old.
The hearing was conducted via a speaker phone. Resident Josh Brandner told the PSC that it isn’t fair to get slammed with an increase of 56% raising his bill from $60 to $100 per month. He expressed his concern for retired individuals living on fixed incomes. He questioned how the initial usage rate was calculated.
Trina Duellman testified that with the projected average monthly increase that no one’s going to want to live here. She called the 56% rate hike “crazy”.
Donna Dowden asked the PSC official to answer the questions which had been posted on the website by 12 residents. She was told by the PSC, that’s not how we do it. Ms. Dowden indicated that 7 years ago the village needed a water system because about half of the resident’s wells were contaminated with gas in the water. She said that while she agreed on the need for a new system, she didn’t sign up for a 50% increase 7 years later.
Larry Kloth testified that he is a former public works director and that if he had proposed a 56% rate increase they would have replaced him. He asked for incremental increases and wondered why his water bill would be higher than the bill at his Arizona winter home.
Shawn Sullivan told the group that the village had requested a 4% rate of return but was told that the states “floor” is a 4.9% return.
Alan Whetstone testified that he may have the biggest family in town and indicated his concern with paying a monthly water bill in the $230 range.
Nicole Buechel questioned the lack of public notice and said she feared that the magnitude of the rate increase will deter people from wanting to live here.
Stetsonville’s water system has 234 users. The extent of the rate increase is in the hands of the Public Service Commission. Once they make a determination the village will have 90 days to implement the updated rate structure. Several of the residents expressed concerns about the fact that the entire rate structure decision was in the hands of Madison bureaucrats.
The next meeting of the Stetsonville Village Board is set for June 11th at 5:30 in the library.