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Brawley adopts $37.7 million fiscal budget

sewer rates may go up

May 19, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — Earlier than most years, the City Council here adopted a budget for the fiscal 2001-2002 totaling more than $37.7 million.

As part of that budget, which goes into effect July 1, residents could face a $3.25 increase in their monthly sewer rates to cover costs associated with wastewater services.

Councilman Steve Vasquez said the council had to adopt a city budget before the end of May, about a month earlier than normal, as part of an agreement that has brought the city $6.5 million in grant funding for the wastewater treatment plant expansion.

That funding was provided through the North American Development Bank, a joint U.S./Mexico agency formed to help border municipalities with infrastructure projects.

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City officials had hoped to cover all costs associated with the wastewater treatment plant expansion but unexpected costs have caused the city to look at raising sewer rates for the new fiscal year.

That rate increase, included in the budget but yet to be officially adopted by city ordinance, would mean the average monthly payment would jump from $13 to $16.25.

Vasquez said the increase still has to go through a public hearing before it is finalized.

City officials are planning to conduct a public hearing and first reading on a rate-increase ordinance June 5. The adoption of the increase could come June 19 and the first billing date with the hike would be Aug. 1.

There was little information available this weekend on what unexpected costs the city has faced.

Councilwoman Jo Shields said one cost is related to the replacement of the Oakley sewer line in the northeast section of the city. That project cost about $1 million.

City officials are involved in litigation over that project and city officials had hoped to receive reimbursement for the cost of the sewer line replacement by now.

Shields said the wastewater rate has to be increased.

"This is not something we expected to do," she said, adding the only increase the city had projected was a 60-cent increase that went into effect at the first of the year.

The city is under orders from the state to upgrade its wastewater service. The existing plant has a capacity of about 3 million gallons per day and at times the amount has surpassed the capacity.

The city will increase the capacity so the plant can handle about 6 million gallons per day.

City officials have said the expansion is important because it will mean the city will be able to handle growth such as the under construction beef-processing plant.

The budget for the coming fiscal year includes few other changes beyond the wastewater rate increase.

Mayor Wayne Johnson said most departments will receive a similar amount of funding as the previous year.

Johnson said the Police Department received an increase so it could buy shade structures for the parking lot.

Johnson said the shade is necessary, particularly during the summer, because the patrol cars are being fitted with computers and direct sunlight could damage the systems. The computers have been provided through a state grant, he said.

The budget for the coming fiscal year includes $385,000 for the Parks and Recreation Department to build a 12,000 square-foot skate park.

Karin Morgan, city parks and recreation director, said the goal is to build the skate park in the next year. However, the project depends upon the council selecting a final site. The preferred site is the field just west of the Lions Center gymnasium.

That field is the property of the Brawley Union High School District and the city is planning to negotiate with the school district for the use of the field.

Morgan said district officials have voiced a willingness to work with the city.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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