The Lee’s Summit City Council adopted the Strategic Plan for the Lee’s Summit Water Utilities Department and directed staff to adjust the water and sewer rate as recommended in the plan to address system improvements and operating costs. The decision was made during the City Council meeting on December 15 in Lee’s Summit City Hall.
This is the City’s first water and sewer rate increase since 2006. The adjustment will become effective April 1, 2012 for the City’s commercial and residential water services customers. Sanitary sewer services cost will remain unchanged in 2012.
The strategic plan was the result of a comprehensive assessment and strategic planning process initiated by the Water Utilities Department. During the assessment process, the utility was evaluated on operational practices and procedures, long-term plans for infrastructure improvements, and financial viability in comparison to industry standards and benchmarks. Feedback from customer and employee surveys as well as the Community Advisory Group (CAG) was also a part of the assessment. The CAG is comprised of residential, business and commercial customers.
As a result of the comprehensive assessment, the utility’s strengths and opportunities for improvement emerged to help guide future decisions and practices. High marks were received by the utility in comparison to other Kansas City metropolitan area utilities and to accepted industry standards for product quality, customer satisfaction, operation resiliency and water resources adequacy.
The assessment also revealed the need to:
- Establish appropriate policies to address financial challenges;
- Develop a program for renewal of existing aged underground infrastructure;
- Improve customer understanding and relations; and
- Address long-term needs to ensure the utility’s sustainability.
While all of these areas are important to address, two opportunities for improvement emerged as the most critical to address now. Those areas are infrastructure stability and a rate management policy.
During the last 12 months, there were a number of water and sewer line breaks – approximately 190 resulting in service disruptions and customer inconveniences across the City. These line breaks and failures represent an increasing problem experienced because of our community’s aging underground infrastructure.
Repairs to water lines in our community have mainly consisted of patching where the breaks occur. However, this is considered a temporary solution to a problem that will continue to increase in frequency and severity if these lines and pipes are not eventually replaced.
The utility’s net operation reserve fund available for debt services and capital improvements has been decreasing since 2007 because the cost to purchase water from our suppliers continues to increase and revenue has not kept pace with increasing maintenance and operation costs of the utility. Sewer revenue is also not in alignment with wastewater treatment costs. The cost of treating wastewater is expected to gradually increase 75% during the next 10 years according to projections by the Little Blue Valley Sewer District.
The strategic plan includes a recommendation for the City to adjust the water and sewer rate to help fund future system improvements and increased operating costs. Adjustments to the monthly combined water and sewer rate are not expected to exceed 6%. Individual monthly sewer and water rates may be slightly more or less than 6%. With the rate adjustment, Lee’s Summit customers are expected to continue paying among the lowest rates for water and sewer services in the metro.
For example, the combined sewer and water rate increase monthly in 2012 would only add an estimated $2.91 to the monthly water bill for residential customers using 5,000 gallons of water per month. By the fifth year of the rate program, customers using 5,000 gallons of water per month would pay an estimated $3.87 more a month.
In addition to implementing the rate adjustment, steps are being taken to:
- Create a Water Utilities Advisory Committee, which would be an expansion of the existing Water Tap Fee Committee
- Initiate a Cost of Service Study to help determine future rate adjustments
- Implement the goal and strategies of the strategic plan in the next 6 months to 1 year.
For more information about the Water Utilities Strategic Plan, call (816) 969-1900. Download the report at lswater.net | Publications and Reports | Water Utilities Strategic Plan. You can also view the December 8 presentation of the Strategic Plan to the City Council at cityofls.net | Main site | About the City | Government Access Channel.