NEW Water, Hobart discuss village sewer costs
By Kevin Boneske
HOBART – The bulk of the village board’s meeting Tuesday, Jan. 19, literally went into the sewer.
That’s because the board heard a presentation from representatives of NEW Water about sanitary sewer rates Hobart is being charged.
Village Administrator Aaron Kramer said increasing sewer rates by NEW Water generated a heated discussion last month when members of the Suamico village board heard a presentation and expressed their displeasure to NEW Water increasing Suamico’s budgeted sewer charges this year by about 14 percent ($121,929) to $992,265.
Kramer said he wanted Hobart’s board to hear a presentation from NEW Water related to how it operates and how it bills the village.
“We’re not just paying for what people flush down their toilet,” he said. “There’s debt service. There’s other things that go into it.”
Kramer said the village sets its own sewer rates, which includes more than paying NEW Water, with Hobart having its own internal sewer projects.
Compared to 2017, when Hobart’s sanitary sewer fund had a deficit of $300,000, he said it is now “financially solvent.”
NEW Water Executive Director Tom Sigmund said its budgeted sewer charges to Hobart are increasing this year by 10.1 percent ($61,992) to $675,292.
“Seventy-seven percent of that (increase), or $47,500, is due to increased flows and loads that are coming from Hobart,” he said. “So basically, it’s the growth in your community that drives for 2021 about 77 percent of the increase.”
Sigmund said the parameter units for billing include: flow (per 1,000 gallons of water); Biochemical Oxygen Demand (pounds); Total Suspended Solids (pounds); Phosphorus (pounds); and Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen (pounds).
‘Smoothing’ units invoiced
NEW Water Business Services Director Brian Vander Loop said the units invoiced to the village include a factor known as “smoothing.”
“A while ago our customers wanted a smoothing element to their bills,’ he said. “How smoothing works, it takes, for January, for example, it takes one month of actual (charges), 11 months of budgeted (charges), you add them together and divide by 12, there’s your invoice number. You go to February, you’ve got two months actual (charges), 10 months of budgeted (charges), and so on.”
Vander Loop said the invoice in December involves a “true-up” related to the actual amount of discharge units in the village compared to the amount budgeted for the year, with Hobart either receiving additional charges or a reduction.
Hobart officials asked NEW Water to stop its billing procedures known as “smoothing” after a spike in the amount invoiced to the village in December.
Kramer said Hobart’s bill from NEW Water in December was 100 percent more, $60,000 higher, than the previous monthly billings.
“There’s nothing smooth about a 100-percent increase,” he said.
Kramer said something also came through the sewer system in December to increase Hobart’s actual units.
“What happened?” he asked. “We don’t know.”
Vander Loop said NEW Water staff members are looking into it, but they don’t think residential waste caused the increase.
“Residential waste wouldn’t react that way,” he said. “It appears to be something else, something different.”
Kramer said he and Public Works Director Jerry Lancelle are of the opinion the smoothing process should be stopped in Hobart because the amount of residential sewage is pretty consistent throughout the year.
“You don’t have peak times of the year where you go to the bathroom differently than you do otherwise,” he said.
Kramer said an abnormal increase in parameter units would be easier to notice on a monthly basis with NEW Water invoicing the actual units.
“We’re going to request, at least until the foreseeable future, we go off the smoothing and we go to the actual number, what’s coming though the system,” he said.
Sigmund said the total amount Hobart pays for the year will be the same by stopping the smoothing process.
“The smoothing is not required,” he said.
After meeting in closed session, Kramer said the board approved a four-month option to purchase with Scott’s Subs Hobart RE, LLC, to develop a 1.297-acre, village-owned parcel at 550 Centennial Centre Boulevard.