Sister Bay Water Rate Hike with PSC

Sister Bay resident Barbara Luhring advised utility ratepayers to “brace for impact” at an early morning meeting of the Sister Bay Utilities Committee on Oct. 7.

Luhring was referring to the committee’s proposal to raise water rates by 17 percent in order to offset the Payment In Lieu of Taxes, or PILOT, program the Sister Bay Marina pays annually to the village, which amounts to $161,000. The marina says it is tapped out with depreciation and rates that can’t go any higher.

“It looks like a tax and smells like a tax, so I feel it is a tax,” Luhring told the committee during the public comment period of the meeting. “Today this tax is subsidizing downtrodden yacht owners who rent slips at Sister Bay Marina.”

Utility rates are regulated by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC), which Utility Clerk Martha Baker reported to the committee has received Sister Bay’s request for a rate hike.

“We haven’t heard back, probably won’t for another month or two months,” she said.

Clark also pointed out that the accountant who went over the figures told her that “75 percent of that increase is attributed to the PILOT. Just want you to know that.”

If approved by the PSC, the village expects the rate increase to go into effect in the second quarter of 2015.

Sludge from the wastewater treatment plan was another topic covered at the meeting, with Terry Stebor, water/wastewater section manager at Robert E. Lee & Associates of Hobart, Wis., delivering a report on sludge options for the city.

The village currently has its sludge processed at the Sturgeon Bay wastewater treatment plant, which, for a fee, converts the waste sludge into Class A biosolids that can be used for fertilizer, much like the milorganite fertilizer manufactured and marketed by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District.

But what if the Sturgeon Bay plant runs into a problem or decides it no longer wants to process sludge from other municipalities?

Stebor said the first option is to do nothing and continue to work with the Sturgeon Bay plant, expecting the fee to be subject to increases over time.

Another option would be for the village to invest in an autothermal aerobic digester, which, like the Sturgeon Bay plant, would turn the village’s waste sludge into Class A biosolids, resulting in a soil-like material suitable for use as fertilizer.

There is also a composting option that Stebor said was being explored at the treatment plant in Appleton, whereby the sludge goes through a de-watering process and then is piled in windrows that are turned and aerated until the sludge turns into compost. This is a labor-intensive process that requires a lot of space, he said.

Another option is one that is being used in Egg Harbor, where the sludge is sent to reed beds that perform three functions:  dewatering the sludge, transforming the sludge into humus-like components, and serving as a holding area for a number of years before having to be cleaned out.

Frank Forkert, representing the Town of Library Grove on the committee, suggested that all the communities with sludge disposal problems get together and discuss the options presented, and that maybe the county should get involved as well.

Utility Manager Steve Jacobson said he would do further research on the options.

The committee also decided to hire Robert E. Lee & Associates to re-evaluate a comprehensive utilities plan that was done by another firm in 2006 regarding the building of a new water tower to alleviate a low-pressure problem on the north end of town.

The village has been collecting impact fees to build the tower and would have to return the money collected if it is determined that the water tower is no longer needed. According to Utility Clerk Martha Baker it amounts to $4,200.