Humboldt works on water woes

City leaders acknowledge a rate increase will be needed to address the city's aging water lines. An Emporia-based firm is helping the city determine financing options to upgrade the system.

By

News

May 12, 2021 - 9:52 AM

City administrator, Cole Herder, explains the utilities-based financial emergency in Humboldt, along with proposed solutions such as Kansas Senate Bill 88. Photo by Trevor Hoag / Iola Register

HUMBOLDT — Acknowledging that “we’re going to have to raise rates one way or another,” Humboldt council member Paul Cloutier and others agreed Monday evening that the best way forward in addressing the city’s aging water lines is to invest in their replacement rather than patchwork repairs.

“On every block in town there’s a hole where a water line is being repaired,” said Mayor Nobby Davis. 

Cole Herder, city administrator, predicted the city won’t have enough manpower to address all the needed repairs if they don’t remedy the problem and that “at some point, our costs will go up and our system will still be on hold.”

After a thorough discussion, council members authorized Bruce Boettcher of BG Consultants, Inc., to pursue financing options for an $11.3 million upgrade to the city water lines.

The Emporia-based firm also handled Humboldt’s sewer upgrades in 2007.

Boettcher, an engineer, walked council members through various financing options including a mix of state and federal loans and grants. 

Because interest rates are rock bottom, Boettcher said “I’d be remiss if I didn’t urge you to act quickly.”

Depending on how the financing pans out, water rates likely will increase anywhere from 9% to 25% to pay for water lines, which will be replaced with PVC pipe. A loan of that magnitude will likely be for 40 years, he said. 

A consolation is that the new system can be expected to last 100 years, “long after we’re gone,” Herder said, noting “we did the same for the sewer system. It’s fixed for our lifetimes. Council did the same in the 1980s with gas lines. These are all necessary investments in Humboldt’s future.” 

LOREN and son Matt Korte of Personal Service Insurance presented council members with a check for $19,975.46 as part of a return on what the city paid in premiums — $123,878 — for insurance for property, vehicles, liability, fraud, cyber, and worker’s compensation through EMC Insurance. 

EMC is able to distribute rebates to its pool of customers because the overall costs of covering employees is less than what is paid in. 

The city’s premiums for April 2021 to April 2022 are $131,287.

Herder said that the city’s rates for work compensation had “significantly increased” — from $39,908 to $44,145 — because of a claim. 

“One claim can really affect rates,” Loren Korte admitted, and “your experience is going to follow you wherever you go,” in the search for another carrier.

About one-third of the city’s property taxes go toward insurance, Herder said on Tuesday. 

The city provides employee-only health and dental insurance, which increased from $191,822 to $219,818 for this year. 

CITY HALL is now open to the public, Herder said, and face masks to guard against the spread of COVID-19 are not required.

As a policy, city employees will not be required to wear face masks except in the instance that an unvaccinated employee must “enter a person’s home,” such as in the case of an emergency, Herder said.

Humboldt stands to receive almost $250,000 in American Rescue Plan funds, Herder said, with the first half coming in about 30 days and the balance in mid-2022.

Herder said an 8-page report details how the money may be spent. The city has until the end of 2024 to spend the funds.

Humboldt City Council member Cindy Holinsworth looks on as City Administrator Cole Herder shows off old street signs for sale beginning Monday.Register file photo

The city’s old black-and-white street signs will sell for $10 apiece beginning Monday at City Hall. First come, first served.

Council member Don Becannon has informed council he will not run for re-election, while new member Sarah Hart has announced she will. The council has four seats up for election in addition to that of mayor. The filing deadline is noon on June 1 at the Allen County Courthouse.

Humboldt’s pool will open on Memorial Day, May 31. Pool hours are from 1:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Advertisement

Related
August 11, 2021
April 14, 2021
November 11, 2014
May 11, 2010