The question was brought up as to why South Bend is paying at least $30 more than Raymond for sewage, to which Mayor Struck replied: "I can’t answer to Raymond, all I can do is look at our numbers and tell you right now we're $150,000 in the hole. It's because we weren't collecting enough all along.”
Clerk/Treasurer Dee Roberts, who is also a Raymond City Councilmember, spoke on the matter: "Raymond has no debt. They have no sewer debt at all, so they have no loan payments to make. That was one thing going for Raymond that South Bend did not have. We were already making close to $400,000 worth of loan payments for other sewer improvements before we ever started this project. Raymond is not done raising their rates. Raymond has been using their reserves, so that they did not have to raise their rates. Raymond's reserves are gone, so they have to raise their rates."
The question was raised of whether this $20 increase is needed help pay for some mistakes that were made on the water treatment facility, to which Mayor struck replied: "No. My understanding is that there will be repercussions, but that process has not begun yet. Someone is going to be held accountable. Who that someone is at this point, I'm not sure if it's the geologists, or if it's the engineers or who, but yes. Hopefully, some money will be coming back in to pay for the mitigations that had to be done, because somebody made an error, there is no doubt, but the taxpayers will not have to pay for the mistakes."
Mayor Struck added, "I don't like it anymore than you guys do, but I will say that the City of Shelton is putting together a sewer coalition and they will be using that coalition to lobby at the legislature for these unfunded sewer mandates, these plants that they're forcing small communities to build that can't afford it, while we're having to pay these huge rates. They're pressing the legislature over the next few years trying to get some money back into these communities to help pay these loans."
As a side note, the City of South Bend received a clean audit for the 2013 fiscal year. “The results of our tests disclosed no instances of noncompliance or other matters that are required to be reported under government auditing standards,” the report,which was completed by State Auditor Troy Kelley,read.
The next city council meeting is Monday, August 11 at 6 pm.