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City Council must pass rate increases

Remember the famous Yogi Berra quote: “It’s deja vu all over again?”
Well, that’s definitely the feeling one might have after the Tuesday, Feb. 20, Glencoe City Council meeting.
A resolution was introduced to raise the wastewater utility rates, but failed because no one would second it.
Staff from Short Elliott Hendrickson (SEH), Inc., made it crystal clear that without a proposed rate structure to help build funds in the sanitary sewer account, the city would not qualify for a much-needed Point Source Implementation Grant (PSIG), which would fund about $7 million of the needed $22.35 million worth of improvements and upgrades to the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
So, where does the feeling of deju vu come in? Remember back in January when a motion to enter into a cooperative agreement with McLeod County for the Morningside Avenue extension project failed for lack of a second? Remember how that could have jeopardized a considerable amount of state funding?
Same scenario, different project.
Those of us who have seen SEH’s presentation on the needs at the treatment plant — corroded valves, leaky tanks, failing filtering media — has to know that the improvements are needed.
Granted, the proposed rate increases are pretty hefty, but a chart presented at last week’s meeting showed that Glencoe’s current wastewater rates are at the low range from a field of 12 other cities and, when they peak in 2020, will still be midfield. So, not great, but not the worst, either.
But most importantly, if the city doesn’t land this grant, it will be responsible for the full costs of the upgrades. Maybe it can piecemeal repairs over the next several years, but the result will be just that — a piecemeal solution that will still cost money, and will still likely result in higher wastewater rates.
Nobody wants higher rates, and it’s understandable that council members would be loath to institute them. But the phrase “necessary evil” applies to this situation. Without adoption of the proposed rate structure, the city will not get the grant. Period.
And we don’t know why. When a motion doesn’t make it to the table, discussion pretty much comes to an end, and the council members don’t have the opportunity to explain why they are in favor of, or why they are against, the proposal.
After the motion failed to get off the floor, Mayor Randy Wilson promised that it would come back at the council’s next meeting.
And the city is planning a meeting with state legislators on Friday to talk about funding for the project.
Let’s hope that both meetings proof fruitful. We cannot afford to snub a $7 million grant funding opportunity without thorough discussion and consideration.