Discussion By Douglas Officials Over Recent KLSWA Rate Hike Turns A Little Testy
Discussion about the recent area water and sewer rate increase got a little bit testy during Monday night’s Douglas City Council meeting.
The friction among Douglas City Council members was evident while questioning Kalamazoo Lake Sewer & Water (KLSWA) Authority Manager Daryl VanDyke about the rate hikes.
For several weeks now city representatives have been calling on VanDyke to come and discuss the matter with them because they said they and their constituents had many questions.
The KLSWA Board hired VanDyke as its manager in late 2010, who then had 16 years of experience in water operation and 10 years of sewer operations under his belt.
Before his tenure, KLSWA was operating in a deficit, where revenues did not compensate expenses and the utility costs were quickly eating away at the authority’s reserves.
“Who’s got oversight over KLSWA?” Douglas Council Member Greg Harvath asked VanDyke, to which VanDyke responded:
“The KLSWA has representatives from each area we service; two from Douglas, two from Saugatuck (City) and one from (Saugatuck) township (which KLSWA serves in a limited area).”
VanDyke further noted that all rates are approved by the KLSWA Board.
KLSWA is responsible for operation and maintenance of the sewer and water systems in the area. Each community is responsible, however, for providing and financing their own infrastructure.
A joint water agreement and a joint sewer agreement establishes the inter-relationship of those communities as it relates to the utility.
Harvath put forth a series of questions to VanDyke, much to the apparent chagrin of Douglas Mayor Pro-Tem Martha Hoexter.
“This is information Eric (Smith) and I have already told you about,” Hoexter told Harvath, reiterating that same statement in different ways throughout the discussion.
Hoexter and Smith are the city representatives on the KLSWA Board.
“I don’t know why you are being nitpicky,” Hoexter told Harvath, conspicuously annoyed.
He responded with, “I don’t know how it is being nitpicky if it is not known how it (rates are determined) is being done.”
Yet another point of contention bubbled up when some of Hoexter’s colleagues asserted that KLSWA was “owned” by those municipalities KLSWA serves.
Hoexter denied that claim, noting KLSWA was an “authority,” not owned by the municipalities.
“You are embarrassing yourself, Martha (Hoexter),” commented Douglas Mayor Jim Wiley.
As for VanDyke’s explanation about the rates and how they work, the council seemed pleased and thanked him for his appearance.
“Utility rate determinations are much more complicated than a council meeting,” VanDyke told council.
He talked about the wastewater treatment plant’s two fees: a usage fee and a base fee. The base fee takes into consideration anticipated fixed expenses.
“It (the base fee) ensures the utility gets constant revenue to be able to basically keep our doors open.”
The usage fee is based on the meter size, which vary according to the needs of each building being served.
A 5/8” meter is the size for an average home, but a house, for example, that serves a pool, a jacuzzi, and an elaborate sprinkling system will require a bigger meter.