Tuesday, Jan. 22 2013 4:36PM
Water utility improvements underway
City Council to review rate structure Jan. 24
By Russ Pulley
Lee’s Summit’s water department is more prepared for a blazing hot summer if there’s a repeat of last season.
The Jackson/Cass County transmission line, a joint project between Kansas City and Lee’s Summit, is now complete and functional.
It has raised the capacity of Lee’s Summit’s water system by six million gallons per day of capacity to the system, said Mark Schaufler, director of Lee’s Summit Water Utilities.
The pipeline, being installed under supervision of Kansas City, was to be working during the summer but when tested had malfunctions. Correcting the problems delayed its use.
Infrastructure stability and financial stability were the two highest priorities for the water utility strategic plan adopted by the Lee’s Summit City Council in 2011.
Probably less welcome, but as necessary, is a rate increase expected March 1. The council Jan. 24 is to review water and sewer rates and a cost of service study which were part of the plan.
Schaufler said a majority of customers, those using 5,000 to 7,000 gallons a month, would see an increase of 4.9 percent of their bill.
The average increase is targeted at being less than 6 percent overall, and is primarily due to water-rate increases from the city’s suppliers (Kansas City and Independence) and for sewage treatment fees from the Little Blue Valley Sewer District, he said.
The target was one set by a 20-member Community Advisory Group which worked the department and consultants while creating the plan after reviewing an assessment of the utility made by consultants.
A series of expected rate increases, the first was in April 2012, will bring utility revenues in line with costs.
Schaufler said the policy is to “get rates where they need to be and make incremental increases that are necessary as we go forward.”
The rate increases and other policies are part of the strategic plan intended to be a guideline to the utilities ready for city growth and financially sound. The city is making other progress on infrastructure stability.
Schaufler said the city is well into its Neighborhood Main Replacement program, which began last summer.
The utility is spending $3.6 million to replace lines that are having frequent breaks, replacing about six miles of water mains.
“They’re scattered all over the city,” Schaufler said. “A significant part has been completed.”
Because the work includes laying temporary lines on the surface, where they could freeze, work is suspended during the winter.
For details on the progress and the schedule for 2013, go to: http://cityofls.net/Utilities/-
The department also is spending $425,000 relining clay sewer lines, it started work in mid-December, to fix about 21,000 feet of pipe. It uses a process that cures a liner with in the pipes. Also construction is to start on expanding the capacity of the Scruggs Road Excess Flow Holding Basin and other projects to improve the sanitary sewer system.
Other enhancement made by the utility include new billing software, which the utility started using early last year, providing customers with more information about their water usage and allowed for the first time paying online.
The utility also added engineering capabilities within the department instead of relying on outside consulting to be more efficient, added a community relations specialist to help with customer education, and expanded the Water Tap Fee Committee to create a water board to advise the department.