Council takes step to spur lot development

• Zimmerman will limit plan to lower sewer and water charges for one year 

by Nathan Warner

Contributing Writer

Financial advisers for the city recommended that the city reduce connection fees for properties to encourage developers (particularly Woodland’s Development in the near-term) to continue developing lots.

This is a strategy to curtail a projected deficit between lower rates of connections and the city’s debt to paying for connection services (water towers, water treatment, etc).

The city voted unanimously to lower the connection rates for a year before bringing them back up again.

A representative of Woodland’s Development, which had requested the reduction in sewer access and water access charges, expressed support for the outcome. He said he was optimistic that this decision would help them market homes in Zimmerman during the Parade of home 1

Financial consultants Jim Casserly and Greg Johnson, of Monroe, Moxness and Berg, said Woodland Development’s request to reduce fees to help Zimmerman compete with neighboring communities made sense as long as it is carefully managed.

The consultants said that reducing connection rates to city sewer and water was a good approach, if carefully managed, because the city is very solvent. However, sluggish development must be carefully monitored, as it affects the city’s ability to pay for the water and sewer infrastructure.

The financial consultants felt that lowering the connection rates for a one-year period will help developers advertise new properties competitively, without negatively impacting the city.

They said it may also boost future development and, in turn, raise more revenues for the city to meet the financial needs of the water and sewer services in the future.

The rates will have to rise again, however.


Kowalski contests    water bill fee

The Zimmerman City Council also heard former Council Member Wendy Kowalski contest certification of her delinquent water bill.

At issue for her is the city’s practice of certify delinquent water bills to the county auditor to be collected with taxes. Kowalski believes that the manner in which the water is being charged is an unwarranted tax.

Mayor Dave Earenfight pointed out that the city’s attorney has presented the facts to Kowalski and has determined that the city is legal in its practice. He stated that the water bill is a fee, not a tax, and noted that Kowalski had paid the delinquent utility bill.

He further noted that the only remaining issue was Kowalski’s interpretation of the city’s practice and state law.

“We aren’t lawyers,” he stated, “so presenting your opinion on legal issues to us is pointless. If you want to take the city to court, by all means do so, instead of wasting the city’s time and money.”

No other individuals were present to contest delinquent water bills, which had totaled $55,983.73. The city’s treasurer, Kary Tillmann, said a significant number of the bills had been paid.

A final certification must be approved by the council Nov. 18 and submitted to the county by Nov. 30.