By Steve Woodhouse Editor
The Journal Express
---- — The Pleasantville City Council is scheduled to vote on the proposed sewer rate increase of 13 percent a year for three years, followed by 12 percent increases for two years, at its next regular meeting on Monday, April 15, at 5:30 p.m.
The increases are sought as the best option, with the least impact on local residents, in response to Environmental Protection Agency demands, enforced by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, to reduce wastewater pollution levels. The project is expected to cost nearly $4 million. The City of Pleasantville has already invested $2 million to improve its sewer system, including its sewage lagoons, and current testing indicates that the output is already far below DNR regulations. The City has also been told that actions the DNR is requesting will ultimate increase the level of other pollutants, including E-Coli.
The council studied options to respond to the DNR, including doing nothing, using more Local Option Sales and Services Tax money or raising fees for 24 percent each year for three years.
City Manager Joe Mrstik said his council wants to hear from residents regarding the decision. A town hall meeting was recently held for this purpose.
In addition to a sewer rate increase, Pleasantville is also considering a 5-6 percent increase in water rates. Mrstik said the sewer rate increase is the more prevalent issue.
He expressed his frustration with the new demands from the DNR because more sewer repairs will take more money from other projects. Mrstik was eager to do what he could to make the community more attractive in an attempt to grow the community. Higher utility bills and less money for improvements will make this more difficult.
“That’s unacceptable to me,” Mrstik said. “It’s going to be very expensive.” Mrstik also has reservations about increasing the levels of other pollutants, specifically E-Coli. He believes the requirements do not represent good planning. Concern also exists about what the EPA may seek in the future, and if the City will have to continually spend money on the sewer system to meet its demands.
“What next?” Mrstik said. “We only have so much money.”
Mrstik also questions why the DNR is not pressing farmers to use less chemicals on their lands. He believes runoff from farms may contribute more to pollution than water released from a sewer lagoon after treatment.
A concerned resident asked how much money the City has paid engineering firm Snyder and Associates, as they assist the City with planning the improvements. Mrstik said the engineering firm has worked with Pleasantville for many years and, while he has not always agreed with them, he is pleased with the work they have provided.
“Unfortunately, we have to pay somebody,” Mrstik said. He and other City staff members do not have the time or knowledge to be able to perform the tasks done by Snyder. Snyder has received several thousands of dollars from Pleasantville. The City Clerk recently resigned, making the task of researching an exact amount difficult.
“It’s an insurance policy, a lot of times, to use Snyder’s,” Mrstik said. By this he means that he is confident the work will be done correctly and will last the City a good amount of time.
Mrstik and the council continue to encourage residents to share their comments, questions and concerns with them regarding these issues.