Water rate hike gets cold reception


A proposal to increase the city’s sewer rates to non-residents got a cold splash from a local resident during Tuesday’s meeting of the Wayne City Council.
Currently, non-residents pay double the city water and sewer rate, and a proposal was on the agenda to increase that multiple from 2 to 2.5, which was questioned by a local resident whose father would be affected by the rate change.
“My dad was told he couldn’t drill a well and he couldn’t be annexed, so now he has to pay that rate,” B.J. Woehler told the Council. “You’re putting a huge burden on them and they don’t have another option because the water department told him that he can’t put in a well.”
In the Council’s note packet, Wayne City Administrator Lowell Johnson wrote that, under state law, municipalities and their elected officials can extend utilities outside the municipal corporate limits, but are not required to. Those that do will generally charge a higher rate for taking care of regulatory, legal, fiscal and oversight issues for those served outside city limits, and there are no rate restrictions.
“If you and 13 neighbors want to put in a well, somebody has to be the boss,” he said, noting that the residents of the city of Wayne pay for the system. “The City Council has a huge responsibility to the taxpayers, and if you don’t want to be in city limits, then I see it’s worth charging for the time to administrate the system.”
Woehler questioned the need for another rate increase, since the last one came a year ago.
“You’re trying to charge people outside more, and I don’t see the justification for charging people (outside city limits) these rates.”
Councilman Cale Giese motioned to table the proposal until the Council’s next meeting, citing a need for clarification on parts of the proposal. The Council approved the motion on a 6-1 vote, with Councilman Matt Eischeid voting nay.
The Council heard a report from the Wayne Airport Authority regarding the city’s airport, and news from Stan Morris Airport was generally positive.
Airport Authority board member David Ley and chairman Jerome Conardt told the Council that the airport is looking into a proposal that would extend the runway by 1,000 feet, which would allow for bigger airplanes to use the regional airport. They presently have a 4,200-foot runway and have met with Wayne County officials to discuss closing the county road to the north of the airport in an effort to acquire the land needed for the additional runway.
“If we extend the runway, then bigger airplanes can land here, and once we plan it out and get an estimate of costs, we can work on grants and get the federal government to approve the grants,” Conardt said, noting that funding would be a 90-10 split with the federal government picking up the majority of the costs.
Ley told the Council that the airport’s economic development benefit to the community is over $600,000, and with more than 40 planes a month landing in Wayne, it serves as a tremendous benefit to the local economy.
“If they’re landing here, they’re landing for a reason and are doing something economically to benefit Wayne or Wayne County,” he said.
At the present time, 27 aircraft are based at the Wayne airport’s hangars, and all of the plane’s owners live in Wayne or within a short drive of town.
Wayne’s airport is considered a regional airport, whereas airports in Omaha, Lincoln, Grand Island are viewed as national airports.
“We’re considered a very high-value airport that’s important for the economic development of the region,” Ley said, adding that the Airport Authority is appreciative of the support the city has given the airport over the last 40 years.
In other action, the Council:
– approved the final plat for the Kardell East 14th Street addition, along with an ordinance to amend the zoning map from R-1 (residential) to B-3 (neighborhood commercial).
– approved an ordinance to extend city services and set public hearing on the proposed annexation to the city of Kardell East 14th Street Addition.
– approved the requests for street access for the annual Wayne Chicken Show, including the Henoween celebration and parade.
– amended city code to allow city employees and their spouses to play keno in Wayne at the 4th Jug restaurant, which recently opened and is the city’s keno administrator.
– approved the bid of $27,499 by PCF, LLC of Wayne for replacement of carpet at the Wayne Community Activity Center.
The Wayne City Council’s next meeting is Tuesday, May 3 at 5:30 p.m. in the City Council chambers.