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Finance Committee recommends rate study

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The city of Rowell Finance Committee voted Thursday to recommend approval of a $117,693 study of water, wastewater and solid waste rates, although one member questioned its cost.

Committee Chair Jason Perry and members Jacob Roebuck and Margaret Kennard voted in favor of sending the study to the consent agenda for the full City Council at its regular meeting Thursday. Vice Chair Juan Oropesa voted against.

If the consent agenda is passed, the rate study will be awarded to NewGen Strategies and Solutions, Austin, Texas. Parkhill, Smith and Cooper, with offices in Albuquerque and Texas, also submitted a proposal.

Prior to last year, water and wastewater were in one fund and landfill and sanitation collection in another. In August, the finance committee allowed city staff to separate each into its own fund to help the city see if each could cover its own operational, personnel and capital projects.

The rate study will allow the city to better account for revenue versus the actual cost of service for each fund, Juan Fuentes, administrative services director, said.

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“Piggybacking off this study will help me see what is the cost of my operations,” Abraham Shapiro, director of solid waste, said.

“This kind of goes hand in hand with the current routes that we’re designing and building right now. We’re looking to be a lot more efficient in the way we collect the commodities,” he said.

Oropesa questioned why the rate study was not done before the funds were separated.

“To me, it seems like we’re doing it backward. We should have done this a long time ago before going to this step,” he said.

Shapiro agreed it could have been done differently.

“Yes, you’re right. We should have done it maybe a different way. I wasn’t here at the time, but I’m sure there was a reason behind it,” he said.

Oropesa also asked if the city could save money by having the rate study done in-house rather than hiring an outside firm.

“I have a hard time trying to spend $117,000 on a study. I would hope the city would be able to do their own study within the city itself and help save $117,000 instead of spending that kind of money,” he said.

But Shapiro, Perry and a representative of the firm said the city does not have the expertise nor the manpower to conduct such a study.

“I see what an environmental practice manager costs per hour, senior consultants, that kind of thing,” Perry said. “I don’t know that the city would want to have full-time analysts and consultants. It would end up costing us a whole lot more than $117,000 to keep folks like this on staff,” he said.

“I don’t think city staff has the expertise to do its own in-house study and come out with the same kind of conclusions as what we are looking to get,” he said.

Dave Yanke, managing director of environmental practice for NewGen, who attended the meeting virtually, reiterated Perry’s comments.

“We get hired by cities across the country to do these types of studies because your current staff have full-time jobs already. To do this type of analysis, they don’t have the time or, no offense, the expertise in looking at peaking ratios on water consumption and issues like that for allocating costs,” he said.

Also in Thursday’s Finance Committee meeting:

• The committee unanimously voted to recommend the full council award a request for proposal to MRWM Landscape Architects to prepare a concept and engineering plans for the Roswell Market Walk Project. That item is on the consent agenda for Thursday’s City Council meeting.

• Voted unanimously to recommend the full council approve a $158,549 change order to the North Garden Bridge project. That will be under new business on Thursday’s City Council agenda.

• The committee heard a review of the city’s new housing development program, the master plan for the old municipal airport with an emphasis on the Cielo Grande ballfields and all-inclusive park. The City Council on Thursday will consider a resolution authorizing conceptual approval of the housing program.

To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.