Proposed increase comes after not having any increase in eight years

The El Dorado City Commission revisited the issue of water and sewer rate increases during their meeting Monday evening.

Several months ago the commissioners had heard a proposal for rate increases.

The issue was brought back up Monday to see if the commission had any questions or thoughts to discuss.

Kurt Bookout, public utilities director, reminded them they were proposing a 4 percent rate increate on water, as well as dropping the tier two rates, which would impact large water users greater.

With the elimination of tier two, the water previously purchased at that tier – a cheaper tier – would increase 10 percent in addition to the 4 percent increase.

This proposed increase comes after not having any increase in eight years and actually having a decrease in 2010 when they dropped the most expensive tier.

This change is proposed to bring the city more in-line with state recommendations.

The state recommends as people use more water the rates increase not decrease, as they do now in El Dorado.

“The question is do you want us to go to one tier which is a step toward what the state wants us to do,” said Herb Llewellyn, city manager. “Then the brunt of the rate increase will go to our big customers, or do you want to continue with two tiers and have a uniform rate increase?”

Bookout said they recommended going to the single tier. This would make the average residential water bill inside the city go from $16.04 to $16.72.

Staff also was proposing an 8 percent across the board increase on sewer rates, or about $2 per household.

With this increase the city’s sewer rates will go from the fourth cheapest in the state to the seventh or eighth out of the 30 cities Bookout surveyed.

Mayor Mike Fagg had a couple of concerns about the use of some of the funds budgeted for water and sewer.

“I think water should be water and sewer should be sewer,” Fagg said.

His concern was the city is making $62,000 payments out of both water and sewer for the stadium. In addition $21,000 from sewer is going toward the ICMA retirement plan and $29,000 toward retirement funds. These total about 61 percent of the increase. In addition water administration is about 45 percent of that increase.

Fagg said in his opinion those things should be paid out of the approximately $247,000 the city gives to El Dorado Inc.

“That fits more into the economic development kind of thing than it does water and sewer,” he said. “That would be cutting down El Dorado Inc.’s funding but they do have a half million dollars in the bank and we do have jobs at this point. I would like to focus on housing and streets and get back to the basics. If El Dorado Inc. has an exciting project out there of course we would be with them on it.”

The El Dorado City Commission would have to vote on an ordinance to change the rates, which will be done as a regular agenda item.

Also relating to water, the Commission was told why the city was looking to apply for the remainder of its water rights in the lake.

Llewellyn said while the city owns all of the water storage in the lake, which they purchased from the Corps of Engineers, the water rights are vested from the state of Kansas.

“Their primary legal precedent is first in time, first in right,” he said. “If you are there first, you have senior right. We currently are perfecting about half of the water rights. We think it’s prudent to perfect all of it so we’ve at least told the state of Kansas we want all of the water rights in El Dorado Lake because we own all of the storage.”

Julie Clements can be reached at