Water Industry News

Carl Junction, MO considers tapping residents' wallets to diminish deficits and add fluoride to drinking water

By Jeff Wells
Globe Staff Writer

CARL JUNCTION, Mo. - Growing deficits in Carl Junction's water fund are prompting the City Council to consider tapping into residents' wallets.

The council, meeting in a work session Tuesday night, heard the city's engineering firm say that the city may have to postpone planned maintenance and improvements unless a rate increase is approved.

The engineering firm has recommended a 15 percent increase for the average user. The rates supported by the council are about a 10 percent increase, said City Administrator Joe Barfield.

That proposal would increase the residential base rate to $5 from $4, and the rate for each additional 1,000 gallons to $2.36 from $2.25. The increases, officials said, would push the bill for an average household to $17.22 from $15.70 a month.

Barfield said Carl Junction expected a deficit in the water fund for a few years after completing water-system projects earlier this year, but construction costs were more than expected.

Water sales also have been lower than expected, Barfield said. The council speculated that the slow sales could be attributed to the cool summer the area experienced.

The $1.7 million project was designed to accommodate growth for 20 years, and improve water quality and pressure. The work was financed with a loan designed to be paid off with revenue from residents' water bills. The council did not raise rates when voters approved the plan.

Carl Junction last raised rates four years ago. Mayor Jim Wisdom said the city needs to consider more frequent but smaller increases in the future.

Councilman Mike Palmer agreed that an immediate rate increase is needed, and said another should be considered if voters in April approve adding fluoride to the town's water.

The engineers said it would cost $110,000 to purchase and install fluoridation equipment. Palmer said the city would likely pay that bill with another loan and raise rates again to pay off the debt.

"If we go with fluoridation, we will definitely need an adjustment," Palmer said.

But Palmer said the council should look at another rate increase next spring regardless of what voters decide about fluoridation.

The council will consider an ordinance that would raise rates at its Nov. 2 meeting.