NILES -- The increase isn't much but customers of the Niles Utilities Department will soon pay more for water and wastewater.
The 4.25 percent boost in water rates and 3.75 percent hike in the charge for wastewater, effective March 1, were approved Monday night by the Niles City Council. The vote was 7-0, with Robert Durm absent.
Niles City Administrator Ric Huff said the water rate increase will amount to 97 cents a month for the average residential customer in the city and 91 cents a month for the average residential wastewater user.
Dawn Lund, vice president of Utility Financial Solutions, told the panel prior to the vote that despite the hikes, Niles remains "pretty average'' compared to surrounding communities as far as water rates but its wastewater charge on average is still the second lowest.
The council's resolution of supports calls for similar annual increases through 2017 but allows for annual reviews to make certain those increases are necessary. The goal is for the utility to remain on solid financial ground.
"The increase is very small and I think the outcome will be very large,'' remarked Councilman Scott Clark.
Also, the panel conducted a first reading of a proposed ordinance that will prohibit outdoor wood boilers in residential and commercial areas but allow them in industrial zones. Such a unit at the city street department garage at 17th and Eagle streets will remain because the location is in an industrial zone. Also, a unit on Clay Street will still be allowed through the grandfather clause.
The council in addition approved an agreement with the American Electric Power Co. to allow for an outdoor ice skating rink at 547 N. Front St. Councilman Tim Skalla said that if the ice sets up, the rink could be ready for skating by Saturday.
Staff writer Lou Mumford: