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Oliver residents may face steep water rate hike

MADISON -- Water rates in the village of Oliver would increase for the first time in 10 years if a request is approved as submitted by the village this week to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission.

MADISON -- Water rates in the village of Oliver would increase for the first time in 10 years if a request is approved as submitted by the village this week to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission.

The Oliver Municipal Water Plant has been operating at a loss for several years and was advised by the PSC to raise its rates in order to remain financially viable, said Mary Kutzler, village clerk.

"We need to increase our revenues; the PSC told us that," Kutzler said.

The application seeks a 23 percent increase in rates, which would boost the average residential water bill by $10.78 from $46.88 to $57.66, according to PSC data.

With operating revenues estimated at $18,348 for 2007 and expenses, taxes and depreciation totaling an estimated $21,509, the utility faces a $3,161 net loss this year, according to the application.

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The request will be analyzed by PSC staff, which will prepare a revenue recommendation. A public hearing will be scheduled within a few months before the commissioners' vote on the request.

Kutzler wouldn't predict how residents will respond to the request for higher rates, but cautioned that more improvements may be necessary to increase the water system's capacity.

"I honestly don't know how they'll take it. We only have 47 people (as customers) and we can't go over 50 without drilling a new well, the PSC told us. Eventually, we'll have to drill a new well or buy a new pump if we need more water," she said.

Kutzler referred other questions about the application to the village's auditor Michael McDonnell, of Duluth, who didn't return phone calls seeking comment.

In a separate action this week, the PSC allowed the village to use the $66,800 environmental fee generated from the construction of the Arrowhead-Weston power line to replace playground equipment that is 40 years old, maintenance to the 25-year-old town hall and repairs to the town's clay and gravel roads.

"That will help. Our state road aids are only about $9,000 a year," Kutzler said.

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