Platte City water, sewer rates could be going up again

Water and sewer rates could go up again for Platte City residents, and the change could happen quickly.

The Platte City Board of Aldermen’s public works subcommittee recommended a proposal for approval during a meeting Tuesday, May 3 that would increase bills of the average household by an estimated $3 per month. The changes come in response to another rate increase from the City of Kansas City, Mo. — Platte City’s water supplier — along with concerns over need for more capital funds for long-term projects.

The full board of aldermen could approve the increases at a Tuesday, May 24 meeting, and the rates would change now rather than waiting for the end of the fiscal year.

“Everyone around here thinks that we like to ask for these rate increases, but we really don’t,” Platte City city administrator DJ Gehrt said. “(The rates) are going to go up or we’re going to start running big deficits, so it’s a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if.’”

The proposal calls for an increase of 28 cents per 1,000 gallons of water and 32 cents per 1,000 gallons of wastewater.

Effective May 1, Kansas City raised its rates by 12 cents per 1,000 gallons in what has become an annual attempt to offset maintenance costs for their water distribution systems. Gehrt points out that dealing with those added costs remains a cheaper option than the city attempting to build its own system to go independent from its current supplier.

Platte City continues to deal with its own costly maintenance work, mostly in the wastewater systems.

Gehrt said repairs should go up an estimated $21,600 next year along with the need to potentially expedite other future work. He estimates that since 2010 the city has spent more than $4 million in capital projects to repair and replace an aging sewer system.

Wastewater capital reserves have been depleted and the increase in rates will help to avoid running a deficit.

During the subcommittee meeting, Gehrt used the Rising Star Elementary sewage backup that forced kindergarten classes out of the school as an example. Although he pointed out the backup was not the fault of the city, he did say that a similar disaster could occur if the public works department doesn’t have the funding to reline sewer pipes. 

The city continues work to reline outdated clay lines that have a greater risk of failure.
Currently, the city still has 40,000 linear feet remaining that needs to be replaced with that process expected to last another 10 years. The additional funding could help expedite the work in hopes avoiding any major system failures before the task can be completed.

Doing the preventative work could save money down the road. Officials said that repairing a clay line failure costs about four times as much as the work to reline with a more modern material.

“We have a very, very high-quality water system and a very, very high quality wastewater system,” Gehrt said, “and the way we have those high-quality systems is we do the required maintenance on them.”