Wakefield City Council talks water rates, COVID impact at June meeting

Wakefield’s city council worked through several agenda items during a nearly three-hour meeting on June 10. Among those items were re-opening city facilities, water rates and LB840 funds.

The City is planning a roughly $6 million water treatment plant project that would require current water rates to rise to help funding. Debate during the meeting was how much to increase rates, when to raise them and if the way rates are assessed needs to change.

“I think you have to understand (we’re) at a point where we’re going to have a pretty good increase at some point in time. Is it better to be proactive and get some steps in there rather than try to make some big jump up there?” city administrator Jim Litchfield told the council.

After discussion and public hearing, the council tentatively agreed to raise the usage rate by $0.25, moving city rates from $1.75 to $2 per 1,000 gallons and the city base rate from $15.50 to $18 effective Aug. 1. The council will be looking for public input from their constituents before moving on the second and third reading of the ordinance. The project will also look for funding through state revolving loan funds, the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Rural Development and possibly a bond.

After some tense debate, the council approved adding $12,500 to the $50,000 LB840 funds approved to help businesses and non-profits affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the last meeting, the council approved the release of $50,000 and told the committee in charge of disbursing the funds that they wanted businesses treated equally. By the time the application process was over, 22 businesses and non-profits had applied. In an effort to be fair with funds generated by sales tax, the $62,500 will be divided between the 22.

The council approved re-opening more facilities. The indoor shelter at Graves Park is now open for rental with a limit of 25 people during usage. Rental will be organized through the City office. The outdoor shelters are also now opened, however, they will remain roped off until permission is granted by the City to use them. This is being done to ensure proper sanitizing is going on between uses. Playgrounds will remain closed, but basketball courts are tentativley being re-opened.

The Wakefield Civic Center will also re-open with the restiction of 150 people. Those using the Civic Center will also need to sign a waiver. There will be no July 4 community meal this year.

Wakefield Volunteer Fire Department gained two new members after council approval - Heather Comer and Geena Graber. The fire department has also requested an official City of Wakefield email address.

Traci Haglund, Wakefield Health Care Center updated the council about COVID-19 precautions they are taking. There are lots of regulations in place outlining the amount of PPE the health care center must have on hand in case of an outbreak and Haglund said she and her staff are currently working on that.

The council voted unanimously to pursue a Nebraska Department of Economic Development Broadband Grant program. The City would partner with a broadband provider and only pay a percentage of the cost for the project.

A dividend check from EMC Insurance was presented in the amount of $17,384.72.

The next Wakfield City Council meeting will be held on Wednesday, July 8 at 5:30 p.m.

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