The Storm Lake City Council passed the first reading of an ordinance to establish a combined utility deposit for rental units, but not before council members raised several questions concerning current city ordinances covering water and sewer.
City Clerk Patti Moore said the ordinance is needed because the city is losing revenue when people move away without notice or a forwarding address.
She said current delinquent bills are submitted to a collection agency, but usually the city only collects 3 percent. But last year the city lost approximately $13,000 to outstanding water bills, she noted.
"This ordinance is needed as we continue to lose money on final bills," Moore said.
The problem is most evident at rental units, Moore said, where it is difficult to track tenants down if they do not leave a forwarding address.
The proposed utility deposit would be $65, which is based on the average three-month water/sewer/landfill bill in 2000, Moore said. The deposit could be adjusted annually. The average bill turned over for collection is $60, she said.
The deposit would only apply to rental customers who have had their water turned off for non-payment.
Under the ordinance read Tuesday, the deposit would be refunded after 24 months of continued payment, Moore said, which is standard practice for many municipal utilities.
Council members raised several questions about the ordinance, so much that Mayor Jon Kruse suggested the council hold a study session on the city's current ordinances regarding water, sewer and landfill rates and fees.
One disparity the council plans to look at is a section allowing the city to set a lien upon properties for delinquent sewer bills, but not for water bills.
In other news:
* Engineering services were approved with Kuehl and Payer of Storm Lake for the 2002 Street Improvement Project.
The major components of the project includes the reconstruction of North Lake Avenue and of Shoreway Drive between Northwestern Drive and Barton Street.
Also scheduled for next year's project were two parking lot projects - the City Hall parking lot and the lot behind J.C. Penney - but they were removed after council members questioned their priority.
Council members and city staff did tour the two parking lots after the meeting and plan on discussing the matter at a future council meeting.
The total cost of the 2002 Street Improvement Project is $1,490,000, which includes the parking lot projects, according to City Engineer Jim Winterton.
The city already has budgeted $585,000 for the street projects, and another $905,000 is coming from the Iowa Department of Transportation for North Lake Avenue. That amount was part of an agreement between the city and DOT last month to transfer jurisdiction of North Lake Avenue to the City of Storm Lake.
Winterton said the parking lot project would consist of approximately $125,000 of that amount. Council members were interested in seeing if that money could be used elsewhere first.
Engineering services for the project are expected to be about $215,000.
* The city entered into a 28E agreement with the State of Iowa for the Storm Lake Police Department to conduct tobacco compliance checks for the Iowa Alcoholic Beverage Division.
The city will be reimbursed $50 for each compliance check. Public Safety Director Mark Prosser said the Iowa Alcoholic Beverage Division requests about two checks per tobacco license holder per year.