MARINETTE - Tim Peterson announced his retirement as Water Utility administrator Monday night. The announcement and a brief discussion regarding Peterson's recent performance evaluation ended the Water and Wastewater Utilities Commissions meeting.
According to Peterson, his last day will be Feb. 14, unless something requires him to stay longer. He has worked at the Water Utility since 1987 and he was promoted to chief operator in 1996. In 2001, he was given the title Water Utility superintendent and became the administrator after the Utility's contract with Americas Water Services was terminated in the same year.
The commissions voted to withdraw the closed session agenda item that was intended to be used to talk about Peterson's recently completed performance evaluation. Commission member Ken Keller was the only one to vote against withdrawing the closed session.
Earlier in the meeting Keller passed around a rate comparison between all the water utilities in the state of Wisconsin. Marinette's Water Utility's minimum bill is set at $21. According to the Public Service Commission (PSC) of Wisconsin, the highest minimum bill is from Fond Du Lac Water Utility at $41 and the lowest minimum bill is from Wauwatosa Water Utility at $7.23. Both are in the same class as the Marinette Water Utility.
Keller said there are around 580 utilities in Wisconsin and six of those are privately owned.
"About a month ago, we were asked by some of the council members even about what some of the other rates were," he said. "With the current rate study, we're going to be confronted about information like this. While we probably won't remember it all, at least we'll have a general idea about it."
He said he brought the information to the commissions and will be bringing it to the city council at their next meeting so that they have a point of reference of what other utilities are charging, particularly when Marinette's rate study is brought to the PSC of Wisconsin.
"When it does come time for a rate increase, I'm hoping that the commission will keep the rate increase as minimal as possible and still be practical," Keller added. "The worst thing we can do down the road is to paint or camouflage the information so it doesn't seem as bad, and I'm not saying that it will be."
Peterson chimed in saying he typically avoids straight comparisons between water utilities because each one's situation is so different with water sources, size and what method they use to treat the water.
"All in all, at this point in time, our rates are very comparable to others in the state," Peterson said. "I always try to remember when comparing rates that it isn't always a big issue because this is what our rates are and what the taxpayers have to pay or they have to relocate out of town.
"Really, that's what we're after is to try to minimize costs," he added.
He cited the recent push for water conservation in both industrial and residential settings as one of the main reasons for the rate increase
Another issue discussed at Monday's meeting was the issuance of $2.9 million in Water Utility Revenue Bonds for 2013-2015 capital projects and refinancing of prior 2004 Water Revenue Bonds.
The resolution to authorize issuance of these bonds was approved by the Marinette city council earlier this month. Phil Cosson, senior financial advisor for Ehlers, was available via telephone to make a presentation and accept questions from the commissions members. He made the same presentation to the city council before they approved the bond issuance.
The bonds will serve to generate cash flow for the Utility by financing future projects and reimbursing the Utility for capital projects done during 2013.
"This process will bring the revenue back into alignment with their expenses," Cosson said in a separate interview.
Cosson added that the bonds will be sold Dec. 3 and the results will be presented to and approved by the Marinette city council later that night.
The bonds issuance was approved unanimously by the joint commissions.