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Talkeetna council hears Water and Sewer utility issues

by Sue Deyoe ~ June 8th, 2011

The Talkeetna Community Council meeting became slightly heated Monday night after a brief report from Talkeetna Sewer and Water Board chairman Jim Kellard.  Borough Assemblyman Vern Halter asked why the utility board had not come to a decision on a rate increase that had been proposed, even after 4 months of discussion.

Kellard came to the meeting to give a brief report on the Talkeetna utility’s history and actions that had been taken to date.  Over the past couple of years, the Sewer and Water system has struggled to comply with state and federal standards.  The installation of an arsenic treatment plant came thru and series of grants and loans, meaning that customers, at some point would need to pay a rate increase.

Assemblyman Halter became visibly irritated with Kellard and asked why a decision had not been made, when the Board was aware of the financial issues in February. Kellard said he belived it was March but replied that the Board had just been slow to decide what to do and were waiting for a better explanation from the Borough’s financial department on the one hundred thousand dollar deficit.

The issue of how to pay for the debts incurred by the loans on the grants remains unresolved.  Even though the amount seems extreme, Halter reminded the crowd that one hundred thousand dollars out of one million dollars granted isn’t much.

Resident Brian Okonek asked that the community council become more involved with the Talkeetna Sewer and Water process.

The Sewer and Water Board has 5 different scenerios in front of them on how the deficit could be paid.  They are supposed to get a decision to the Borough Assembly so the Assembly can approve their proposal.  Halter said it was up to the utility board to hold public meetings to gain input. The Board has been discussing rate changes and increases since last August.

The utility has struggled since its inception in 1987 to pay for itself.  As an incorporated village, Talkeetna has no way of paying an employee and billing customers, so the Borough manages the finances out of the utility’s finances.

At this point, Customers rates are expected to rise almost 50 percent** in July unless the Board comes up with another solution.  **Customer rates would go from $81 to $126 per month.

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