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Feb 19

The Great Recession and Its Impacts on Weston Utility Customers

Posted on February 19, 2018 at 12:48 PM by Heather Reich

Could you define the Great Recession in a simple paragraph? A quick search on Google reveals that the Great Recession is a term representing the sharp decline in economic activity during the late 2000s, which is generally considered the largest downturn since the Great Depression – officially lasting from December 2007 to June 2009, followed by the global recession in 2009.

While it has been nine years since the official end of the Great Recession, the impacts of this challenging time continue to affect Weston Municipal Utility customers. How so? While the answer is a lot more detailed and complex, the answer could be appropriately summarized with a simple phrase – deferred maintenance.

There is a lot of conversation happening in the community right now about utility rates. This is appropriate since Weston Municipal Utilities has three big initiatives underway right now, which are getting a lot of public attention. These projects include:

    1. Cross-connection control inspections (mandated by State of Wisconsin).
    2. Upgrades of meter technology, (like Wisconsin Public Service’s system).  
    3. Water Rate Case application with the Wisconsin Public Service Commission.

My observations tell me most folks are interested in the water rate case and its potential effect on utility rates. Others are naturally skeptical when local government provides notice of considering rate increases. Recently, I received some questions from customers after the below post was published on Nextdoor last week.

Nextdoor Post (resized)

It is the Village’s desire to make all our public activities as easily understood as possible. Therefore, let me try and explain what has been happening, behind the scenes with Weston Municipal Utilities.

  • Deferred maintenance – Due to the economic impacts of the Great Recession, Village leaders have chosen to defer maintenance on important utility maintenance projects throughout our community.
  • Continued deferred maintenance with the water utility will affect the quality of water customers are receiving. Water is the only public service the Village provides, which you ingest into your body. We are motivated to make sure what you are consuming is safe, healthy, and sanitary.
  • Continued deferred maintenance with the sewer utility will affect the collection system’s ability to safely and environmentally move sewage into treatment facilities located at the City of Wausau and the Rib Mountain Metro Sewerage District. If the collection system cannot move sewerage safely, quickly, and environmentally, it can cause sewage to back up into people’s homes. most sewer collection systems have nowhere to go except to back-up into people’s homes. 
  • Water is a heavily regulated resource. The Village must follow all the rules and administrative directions from regulatory agencies like the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and the Public Service Commission.
  • Village leaders CANNOT just decide to raise your water rates. To expand and increase the level of maintenance Weston Municipal Utilities is performing on your distribution and collection system Weston Municipal Utilities must go through many steps.

      1. Utilities need to prepare a list of projects and their estimated costs.
      2. Utilities need to work with a financial analyst to prepare plans for financing.
      3. Utilities need to file a Rate Case Application with the Public Service Commission.
      4. Wisconsin Public Service Commission inspectors and regulators review the application. The Wisconsin Public Service Commission also approves large maintenance requests. The Public Service Commission is currently accepting public comments in the docket for the rate case which can be accessed at the following link: http://apps.psc.wi.gov/vs2010/dockets/content/detail.aspx?dockt_id=6420-WR-103
      5. If the Wisconsin Public Service Commission approves and/or modifies the application request, their agency issues a set of proposed rates for the Utility to operate within. These rates are reviewed by Village leaders, who are required to hold a public hearing before adoption.
  • The Village has deferred some important utility maintenance projects. Weston water rates have not been increased since 2009 – almost a decade of no cost increases. Having any public service go nearly a decade without rate increases is rare. The maintenance needs have been deferred as long as they reasonably should be, so now is the time to start reinvesting in this service to make sure it continues to operate and perform to the high standards and expectations of our customers.
So, what is the result of these activities and what will it mean for your pocketbook? It is hard to say for sure. The Wisconsin Public Service Commission has not finished its review of the rate application. The Board of Trustees has not yet met to discuss the details of an approved application or held a public hearing.

Regardless of the outcome, Weston Municipal Utilities, the Village of Weston, and our local government officials and employees provide you with high-quality, safe, and cost-effective public services. Please review the following tables for information on our utility budgets and rates comparisons.


Table 1: What Your Water Utility Dollars Pays For! 2017 Budget & Rate Application

2017 Water Utility - What your dollars pay for_Page_08(resized)

Table 2: What Your Sewer Utility Dollars Pays For! 5 Year History 2013-2017

2017 Water Utility - What your dollars pay for_Page_18(resized)

Table 3: Central Wisconsin Water Quarterly Utility Rates

2017 Water Utility - What your dollars pay for_Page_26(resized)

Table 4: Central Wisconsin Sewer Quarterly Utility Rates

2017 Water Utility - What your dollars pay for_Page_27(resized)

Table 5: Central WI Water/Sewer Combined Quarterly Utility Rates

2017 Water Utility - What your dollars pay for_Page_30(resized)

Reports regarding the Village’s 2019 – 2023 Capital Improvement Plans, as well as, utility maintenance items are available on the Village’s website at http://www.westonwi.gov/administrator 

Of course, if you ever have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us here at the Weston Municipal Center at 715-359-6114 or by email at dguild@westonwi.gov.