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Wausau city officials approved a plan Tuesday to try and prevent major water leaks in the city. This agreement comes after crews from Westrum Leak Detection discovered a massive leak on the city's west side.
Wausau leaders want to prevent something like that from ever happening again.
"We were experiencing increased water loss rates and we didn't know where it was coming from,” Wausau Mayor Jim Tipple said after the Wausau Water Works Commission meeting.
In October, Westrum employees found several large holes in a pipe on Wausau’s west side. City officials say more than 300 million gallons of water leaked out over the course of a year costing the city about $170,000.
"We don't have the personnel or the time to walk every section of the main to find leaks,” Director of Public Works and Utilities Brad Marquardt said.
That's why Wausau officials have approved a plan to help prevent water leaks from spiraling out of control.The city has agreed to a contract extension with Westrum Leak Detection.
"The commission has authorized us to do it every other year which is not unusual and so we locked in a three year contract,” Tipple said.
The agreement requires the company to search for leaks within the city every other year through 2017. It will cost Wausau $8,500 in the years a study is completed.
"It's all out of the utility, not the tax base,” Tipple added.
Marquardt said the plan is a good idea, "to hopefully find those leaks and get on them and fix them as soon as possible."
City officials hope that will prevent major water loss due to leaks in the future.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the commission also discussed the city’s sewer rates.
Marquardt told Newsline 9 the city needs to raise sewer rates to make up for about a million dollars in lost revenue.
The city already increased sewer rates by about 25 percent last year to try to offset that. Most people saw a jump in their bill, but utility officials said a recent study showed that wasn’t enough.
They want to increase rates again to keep up with costs.
"They did recommend a 12 percent increase over the next three years also,” Marquardt said.
But today was just a discussion. Sewer rates are not set to increase next year.
City officials said they also changed the way sewer costs are determined to try and generate revenue. Instead of basing costs off of a winter adjustment period between January and March, utility officials are now looking at your water use over the course of the quarter to determine how much customers owe. That means the more water that is used during the quarter, the more customers will pay in waste water costs.
Marquardt said he supports that move because it gives people more control over their costs.
Wausau city leaders plan to study the issue in the future to see if more sewer rate increases are necessary.
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