Utility Rates Could Be Going Up in Grand Rapids
Utility rates could be going up for Grand Rapids if the official meeting minutes from the Grand Rapids Council meetings are any indication.
According to the approved meeting minutes, available at GrandRapidsOhio.com, talk of utility rates began during the September 12 meeting. The conversation started during the fiscal officer’s report when Councilperson Lynn Sylvain asked if a 38 percent mark up on utility bills is normal for a village the size of Grand Rapids.
The fiscal officer stated that, “Anything the village receives for utility bills is put into our water and sewer funds to cover operating costs, like equipment, maintenance/reports, testing, insurance, payroll, etc.” She went on to say, “The village does not profit from this.”
The minutes indicate that Councilperson Martha Frantz would make an appointment with the fiscal officer to discuss the mark up.
In the next meeting held on September 26, Councilperson Frantz continue the discussion of the utility rates.
According to the minutes, “Frantz stated the last time we discussed the water and a 38 percent profit, Frantz went to talk to Kristel (Grand Rapids Fiscal Officer) and asked what exactly is taken out of the water fund. If you reference the August 26 to September 8 bills, there are six items on there that come out of the water fund. Frantz stated the 38 percent markup/ profit/ margin is not really accurate because not all the information was used and she just wanted to make that clear. (sic)”
According to the minutes, Sylvain then stated, “There is a comparison made with Waterville and their rates are half of ours.”
Sylvain went on to say she thinks this is an opportunity to review in a finance committee of how Grand Rapids is allocating its resources. Sylvain suggested doing a larger sample size. Councilperson Rachel Smith suggested finding another entity that is comparable to Grand Rapids. In later meetings Smith suggested comparing Grand Rapids to Liberty Center or McClure.
The conversation continued to the next meeting, which was held on October 24. Council visitor Peggy Seab gave council numbers comparing Grand Rapids, Waterville, and Bowling Green’s water and sewer rates.
The minutes state, “She (Seab) also has a question on the salaries that are appropriated in the appropriation ordinance. In the water and sewer, salaries are listed at $80,000 each and she wondered how that was appropriated. Kristel stated all employees get paid out of these funds. Kristel stated just because $80,000 is appropriated does not mean it is what will be spent. (sic) ”
Seab noted that Grand Rapids water rates cost more than Waterville and Bowling Green. Seab explained to council that she would like someone to look into the rates if it could save residents money.
According to the minutes, Seab stated, “Even if it’s $20, it would be nice if we could do a refund if all money is not expended.”
Councilperson Frantz inquired about what happens to the money in the water fund that is not used. Interim Administrator Chad Beyer explained that it is saved for major issues that could occur and require repairs.
According to the minutes, the utility rates were not discussed during the meeting held on November 14, however it was mentioned during the meeting held November 28.
During the “New Business” portion of the meeting the minutes state, “Mayor thanked Sylvain and Peggy Seab for bringing the utility rates to our attention, it looks like as though we are one of the lowest around and possibly needing a rate increase. Sylvain stated that is not true the comparison is a broker. Mayor stated we will find out. (sic)”
Other highlights of meetings held between September 2022 and December 2022
Council voted to not move forward with a needs assessment. (Sylvain voted to move forward.)
Sylvain would like a 3 to 5 year goals laid out for the village. Smith requested a proposal from Sylvain.
Visitor Peggy Seab asked if Grand Rapids gets charged when the sheriff’s office is sitting at Mary Jane Thurston. Mayor stated it does come out of the village budget. Seab has also seen them at the MJT Marina. Councilperson Jody Donsbach stated that is Henry County, not the village.
Bills from 8/26 – 9/8 in the amount of $20,462.49 pass.
Bills from 9/9 – 9/22 in the amount of $21,515.02 pass.
Bills from 9/23 – 10/20 in the amount of $42,504.81 pass.
Bills from 10/21 – 11/10 in the amount of $61,124.13 pass.
Bills from 11/11 – 11/24 in the amount of $20,974.75 pass.
Meeting 9/12 7pm – 7:31pm
Meeting 9/26 7pm – 7:20pm
Meeting 10/24 7pm – 7:49pm
Meeting 11/14 7pm – 7:27pm
Meeting 11/28 7pm – 7:30pm
All council and mayor were present for all meetings held September through November.
Meetings are held on the second and fourth Monday at the old fire hall on Front Street in Grand Rapids. Meetings begin at 7 p.m. and are open to the public.