Council considers hikes in city services

The Gering City Council considered several service fee incrreases during its Sept. 23 meeting. But without a supermajority, they were unable to pass three ordinances, whiich will be taken up at the next meeting.

GERING — At their Monday meeting, members of the Gering City Council considered several slight increases in some city services, but only approved one of them.

A resolution to increase fees at the Monument Shadows Golf Course received unanimous approval. It has been more than five years since an increase.

Approved was a 3% increase in green fees, a 3% in cart rental fees, a 4% increase in membership fees, a 5% hike in driving range fees, and a 10% increase in cart storage and trail fees.

The next resolution up for consideration was a 33% rate increase at the Robidoux RV Park. The staff’s initial recommendation said the fees Gering charges are below what other RV parks are charging.

“After further consideration, staff said it wants some extra time to do additional review of market data before making any changes in the RV Park rate,” Mayor Tony Kaufman said. “There were some possible typos in the report, so we want to make sure the numbers are good before we make any increases.”

Council members voted to table the resolution until the staff conducts additional research and revises their recommendation.

“Our budget decisions aren’t made lightly,” Kaufman said. “There’s a lot of research and ‘cuss and discuss’ behind the scenes. We want to be competitive and we’re mindful of the impact on the users of the RV park. Still, the cost of operation continues to rise, so we need to cut costs whenever we can.”

Three ordinances to increase other services were only approved on first reading. With council members Troy Cowan, Phillip Holliday and Dan Smith absent, the council lacked a supermajority needed to pass ordinances.

Ordinance 2082 would lower the basic rate for water usage from 4,000 to 3,000 gallons. There’s also a slight increase in the per-thousand gallon charge from $1.52 to $1.55 per customer per month.

Ordinance 2083 would amend the fees charged for use of the Gering landfill. Minimum billing was set at $16.60 per month for residential customers. Slight increases for commercial customers were also made based on volume and service. Overall, it’s a 5% increase in sanitation service fees.

Ordinance 2084 increases fees for stormwater surcharge from $1.25 to $1.50 per month for customers. The fee increase would help the city fund mandates under the federal Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System.

Once passed by the city council, the ordinances would go into effect on Oct. 1, the start of the city’s 2019-20 fiscal year.

“Sometimes it’s necessary to increase our user costs,” Kaufman said. “We have to deal with both rising costs and unfunded mandates from the state and feds. We need to make sure we’re covering our bases. We’ve had to pay some of those mandates out of pocket and they’re very expensive.”

He added that city staff and the council had done an excellent job in submitting a “bare bones” balanced budget for the next fiscal year.

“We have a good base document we can build on going forward,” Kaufman said. “There are only so many cuts we can make and not compromise services to the city.”

In other action, the council approved a new lease agreement between the city and B&S Rask Grill, operating as the Monument Grill, at the golf course.

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Jerry Purvis is a reporter with the Star-Herald. He can be reached at 308-632-9046 or emailed at jpurvis@starherald.com.

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