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Brainerd to look at possible sewer rate increase

Brainerd sewer rates could increase for the first time since 2006.

At a meeting Tuesday, the Safety and Public Works Committee agreed to recommend an increase to the Brainerd City Council.

The topic will be before the council at one of the April meetings. The council as a whole will decide to either move forward with the process or not.

It’s an effort to fund future sewer pipe replacements and rehabilitation of the aging system, city officials said.

The current sewer rate is $1 per 1,000 gallons, which was adopted in April 2006.

The proposed new rates could raise 27 cents each year for three years. That could mean $1.27 per 1,000 gallons in the first year, $1.54 per 1,000 gallons in the next year, and $1.81 per 1,000 gallons in the year after.

Those numbers are just estimates now, as the full city council could adjust them or shoot the idea down.

The average resident pays only a couple of dollars for the sewer part of their bill, said Assistant City Engineer Jesse Freihammer. If someone is paying $2 a month now, it could go up to $2.50, depending on use, he said.

The rate increase would set aside funds to replace pipelines in the future. It will not go toward staffing.

There are about 76 miles of pipe in the city. The average age is 47.2 years old, with the oldest pipe coming from 1904.

If a rate increase passes, those funds would go to fixing the pipes in the worst shape, mostly focusing on pipes installed before 1940, Freihammer said.

The rate increase would generate $5.5 million over the next 20 years to replace or rehabilitate 78,600 linear feet of pipe. That’s about $275,000 a year to focus on 3,930 linear feet a year.

It’s important to be proactive in upgrading pipe, Freihammer said. It saves money in the long run, has less public impact, lessens maintenance and lowers risk of failing lines.

Committee chair Gary Scheeler said the unanimous recommendation for the rate increase is because the committee sees the aging of the pipe as a concern.

“The pipe is getting older and older in town,” he said. “We have to stay consistent with replacement of the pipe.”

In other committee news:

The committee will also recommend at the next council meeting that the city drop the Permit Fee Rebate Program.

There were 101 rebate applications for permits issued in 2012. Those residential properties eligible for the program were owner-occupied single-family homes, as well as licensed single-family homes and duplex rentals. The total amount refunded for 2012 was $7,223.

Scheeler said most people were not aware of the program, and that he felt the construction would have happened with or without the program. The committee will also recommend re-visiting the issue in a year.

The committee will also recommend at the next council meeting that the city approach a service organization to hold a citywide cleanup instead of being the host itself. In the last three years that the city hosted cleanup days, it has lost money.

The first year was curbside pickup, which cost $70,633. The second year was a $10 landfill voucher, which cost the city $1,165. Last year was a drop-off location, which cost the city $775 and only brought in 40 participants.

This year, the city will approach different service organizations to see if there was any interest in hosting it.

JESSICA LARSEN may be reached at or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
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