Discussion regarding water rates and plant expansion, and a new method for interviewing a city administrator, is on the Gardner council’s workshop and regular council agendas which are published on the city’s website.
The workshop, which begins at 6 p.m. will review the 2017 water and wastewater rate study and obtain consensus to move forward on a 2.0 million gallon a day plant and the rate study recommendations. In April, the council heard a presentation suggesting water rates increase 3 percent annually, and wastewater increase 6.5 annually. This summer, the city was under water restrictions due to plant capacity.
At 7 p.m. following the workshop, the a plan to form a committee to interview possible replacements for the city administrator job is listed under the consent agenda. Unless a councilmember specifically asks to remove the item, the consent agenda is usually passed without discussion.
The item says Steve Shute, mayor, has suggested forming a committee that would include: mayor; Lee Moore, council president; Rich Melton, council vice president; Jason Camis, Gardner Edgerton chamber president; Laura Gourley, interim city administrator; and representatives from Fire District #1, Johnson County, USD 231, and a representative appointed by the remaining three councilmembers: Randy Gregoryck, Todd Winters and Mark Baldwin.
Currently, city code says “A qualified person shall be appointed City Administrator for the City of Gardner by the Mayor; such appointment shall be approved by the majority of the entire City Council. The person so appointed shall serve for an indefinite term. The City Council shall participate in the interviewing of applicants for the position of City Administrator. (Ord. 1481. Code 1990 § 1-303)”
Questions regarding why the interview is necessary, who had input on the interview committee membership and when the committee will meet were emailed to Gardner officials, and this story will be updated when information is received.
Several of those listed on the interview committee routinely hold unscheduled, closed meetings to “bridge the gap” between government entities. The Gardner News was barred from one such meeting between the time the city’s former administrator left city hall and the announcement of her “separation agreement” which cost about $350,000.
Water rates background
In April 2018, suggested a 3 percent annual water rate increase and a 6.5 percent wastewater increase was discussed. Gonzalo Garcia, utilities director, and team members from consultant Larkin Lamp Rynearson, combined to present results and recommendations from a Water and Wastewater Rate study. The April 5 presentation recommended a 3 percent annual rate increase for water rates and a 6.5 percent annual increase for wastewater. A rate subcommittee was formed after a Utilities Advisory Committe meeting and requested a 4 percent increase on both sewer and water to have a more even increase between the two.
The study projects that water demand will exceed capacity with the current water treatment plant by 2022.
A new 6MGD (six million gallon a day) water treatment plant will become a necessity in the future. An option would be to build that facility 2021.
To put that major expenditure off until 2027, the city could connect to Water One and annually purchase $450-600k of water to meet excess demand, or it could do a 2MGD expansion of Hillsdale Water Treatment Plant.