Escanaba utility rates on the path to increases

ESCANABA — The Escanaba City Council held the first reading of a series of ordinances that will affect utility rates and garbage collection in the city during its meeting Thursday.

All of the seven ordinances presented will require a second reading, public hearing, and a vote of the council before taking effect. However, it is unlikely the rate adjustments will change at this point in the process, as they are tied to the city’s proposed budget, which was officially approved as the first action of the council Thursday.


The first two ordinances related to the city’s finances that were discussed Thursday were the city’s annual appropriations and tax levy ordinances. The appropriations ordinance effectively codifies the city budget for the upcoming fiscal year, while the tax levy ordinance establishes the city’s millage rate. There are no changes to the millage rate planned for the upcoming fiscal year.

The second reading, public hearing, and vote on adoption for both ordinances will take place Thursday, May 23 at 9 a.m. This is in contrast to all of the utility rate ordinances presented Thursday, which will have a second reading, public hearing, and a vote on their adoption at a special meeting set for Monday, June 3 at 9 a.m.


Under the electric rate ordinance presented Thursday, customers will see a roughly 2.75% increase across residential and commercial rates. Residential customers will be charged $0.10609 net per kilowatt hour used per meter per month, while commercial customers will be charged $0.09925.

Customers on special plans for electric heat or electric water heating will also see a roughly 2.75% increase.

The availability of service charge, which is assessed by the number of electric meters at a property will also increase. Residential customers in Escanaba will pay $16.51 per month, up from $16.07. Commercial customers within the city limits will pay $17.08 per meter, per month for a single-phase meter and $40.75 per meter, per month for a three-phase service. Large power customers will pay $137.66 per meter, per month.

In a shift from past practice, the new ordinance would also assess the availability of service charge to residents who have temporarily shut off their electric service. This is usually done by individuals who winter out of the area or people who have vacant homes on the market.

Council Member Tyler DuBord expressed disapproval of the move, though City Manager Jim McNeil advised the council the move was to make paying for the grid more equitable and was a common practice in other communities.

“I don’t think we need to add it right now. I think we’re already straining our citizens right now as it is,” said DuBord.

Residents who do choose to disconnect for less than 12 months would also be charged a $30 fee to reconnect to city power.


The proposed ordinance related to water rates would increase the cost of water from $6.05 per thousand gallons to $6.53 per thousand gallons, a 7.93% increase.

Residents would also see an increase in their monthly availability charge, which is assessed based on the size of the customer’s water service. As there are 12 service sizes in use in the city, the cost varies widely, but across all service sizes residents can expect a roughly 8% increase in the availability charge on their bill.


Wastewater rates are calculated based off water consumption, based on the idea that if a home or business uses a gallon of water, roughly a gallon of water will enter the sewer system. Under the ordinance introduced Thursday, residents would be charged $9.27 per thousand gallons, a roughly 4% increase over last year’s rate.

Like the water availability service charge, the charge is based on the size of a home’s water service. This charge will also increase by about 4%.

New this year is the codification of monthly fines for residents who have a sump pump system, roof/footing drain other type of prohibited connection that increases the amount of rain or groundwater entering the city’s sewer system. A $5 fee will be charged to customers who have these systems, per month and per violation.

According to McNeil, the additional water from rain and groundwater in the water treatment system has led to violations of state water quality rules and cost the city millions of dollars due to its noncompliance.

“We do plan on starting at $5 per month and each year we will be coming back with increases on this. … This is kind of an introductory price to kind of give a warning but eventually we really do need to force people off the system here,” said McNeil.

The ordinance also specifies that water may be shut off to customers for non-compliance with the prohibited connection rules or for refusal to allow the city to enter a building for inspection purposes.


There are no proposed changes to the cost of garbage removal under the solid waste rates ordinance introduced Thursday.

However, a second solid waste ordinance was also introduced that would update the existing solid waste ordinance. The primary change is that the new ordinance specifies only city issues garbage carts will be picked up on collection days, and instructs residents when carts can be placed near the street.

Under the new rules, carts should not be placed for pick up more than 24 hours before a scheduled garbage or recycling date, must be in place by 6:30 a.m. on collection day, must be placed three feet from streets or alleys and three feet from any other objects, and must be brought back to the resident’s storage area no more than 24 hours after the collection day. The rules also specify that all waste and recycling must be able to fit in a cart with the lid closed.

Unlike the solid waste utility rate ordinance — which will have a second reading, public hearing, and a vote on their adoption the June 3 special meeting — the new solid waste ordinance will have its second reading, public hearing, and a vote on adoption at the regular city council meeting on June 6.


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