Council agrees to new contract on rural water, moves to increase certain fees

The Fairfield City Council approved an agreement Monday with Rathbun Regional Water Association after the association asked for a buyout of the current contract.

The association had signed a 20-year contract with the city whereby it would pay Fairfield $25,000 annually for its water. However, the city has learned that the association no longer needs the water from Fairfield, which is why it asked to be let out of the contract.

Fairfield agreed to let the association out of the contract in exchange for a $100,000 buyout. Under the new contract that the council approved Monday, the association would pay $12,000 annually for two connections to the city’s water, which it could use if water from the association’s other sources do not suffice.

Fairfield City Administrator Aaron Kooiker said that, while the new contract will entail less revenue for Fairfield, it will also be less taxing on the city’s water plant.

“Our system was providing water that we didn’t need to,” he said.

New fees

In other news, the council approved the first reading of a series of ordinances dealing with water fees, sanitary sewer connections, snow removal, fire service fees and permits for things like rental properties, mobile home parks, lodging houses and home occupations.

Fairfield City Engineer Melanie Carlson made it clear that the fees did not refer to residents’ monthly water and sewer bill from the city. Instead, the fees covered in the ordinances relate to work the city does on private property, such as when it must use excavators, chain saws, air compressors and other equipment. Furthermore, she said the base fee for rental properties is not rising, just certain fees for people not showing up for their appointments or failing to complete required paperwork.

The ordinance on fire service fees increases the amount of money the fire department may charge for responding to a fire. The current ordinance allows the fire department to charge up to $500 on a house fire. Fire Chief Scott Vaughan said that is not enough to cover the department’s costs, especially for large house fires. He mentioned the house that burned a few years ago on North Main Street that took 4-5 hours to extinguish.

“When you figure in the cost of running a truck at $100 or $125, and firefighters at $30 per hour, you’re going over that threshold before you know it,” Vaughan said.

The proposed ordinance would allow the fire department to charge a minimum of $300 for vehicle, field and house fires, and a maximum of $1,000. It would allow the department to charge a minimum of $500 for commercial structure fires and a maximum of $3,000. It would increase the fees of running trucks to $150 per hour, and the cost of the firefighter’s labor to $35 per hour.

Vaughan said that the department issues an itemized bill to the property owner detailing how much of the bill goes to labor and how much goes to truck costs.