SUPERIOR, Nebraska (STPNS) -- It's been talked about for weeks and the residents of Superior were warned it was coming. Monday night it happened. Members of the Superior City Council approved new, higher rate schedules for all city utilities.

According to city calculations, the average Superior resident's utility bill will increase $19 per month in the winter and $12 per month in the summer. "Frankly, I'm thrilled we are able to keep them this low," said Larry Brittenham, the utility manager. "Up until a month ago, prices for this winter's natural gas were 27 percent higher."



Brittenham attributes the higher costs to the higher prices paid for energy. On Jan. 1, the Nebraska Public Power District, the city's wholesale supplier of electricity, will increase the price for purchased electricity by 6.65 percent. The purchased power cost is roughly 70 percent of the city electric rate. Thus the increased price of wholesale electric power will result in a 4.7 percent retail increase. The utility department was granted a 4.5 retail rate increase in the summer months and a 4.2 per cent increase in the winter months effective Jan. 1.

Southern Star Corporation, operator of the natural gas pipeline which delivers natural gas to Superior is raising the transportation rate by 4.6 percent. The utility department has joined other customers of Southern Star and filed a protest on the size of the increase. The federal transportation department will review the protest but not until spring. In the meantime, the pipeline company is allowed to collect the increase. The transportation charge is 11.5 percent of the gas rate. This translates to a 5.4 percent increase in the retail price charged for natural gas.

The actual price for natural gas is coming down. In July gas for winter delivery was selling at more than $14 instead of the historic average of $4 to $6. In September, the price had declined to between $5.75 and $7. While down from July, this is still a 15 to 17 percent increase. The actual gas price composes 67 percent of the retail price charged.

Effective Oct. 1, the retail price for natural gas is increasing 7.9 percent for summer and 9.4 percent for winter.

Utility department reports show both the water and wastewater department need rate increase to cover increases in operating costs. The water department has lost $14,000 in the current fiscal year and the wastewater department made a modest $8,000 above expenses. Both departments are facing major expenses.

The water department needs to rebuild the chlorine injection point.

Effective with the current billing the charge for water will increase 6.2 percent. A similar increase is planned for wastewater in March.

Currently the average electric customer is paying $122.42 per month in summer and $66.37 in the winter months. Under the new rate schedule the average charges will increase to $127.96 in the summer and $69.18 in the winter.

Before the rate increase, the average natural gas customer was paying $38.13 in the summer and $142.87 in the winter. These average charges are increasing to $41.15 and $156.37.

The average wastewater charge is going from $25.80 to $27.42.

Prior to the rate increase, the average water customer paid $34.50 in the summer and $18.50 in the winter. Now they will pay $36.63 in the summer and $19.59 in the winter.

In other utility department business Monday evening, the city council approved the start of the design for the next phase in the planned utility system upgrade. Work is currently underway on the first two phases. Those phases have included a replacement of the natural gas distribution system. It is anticipated that project will be completed in the spring.

In the third phase, the city anticipates replacing the electrical system's south substation recloser controls and movement of the 34.5 KVA sub-transmission line out of the neighborhoods to the east side of the truck route.

Portions of the sewer main will be replaced near the wastewater treatment plant and spot repairs elsewhere in the city.

A four-inch water main that now serves the high school will be replaced with an eight-inch main and an eight-inch main will be installed from Highland Drive to the water tower.

The engineers estimated the electrical system work will cost $275,000, the wastewater system $99,000 and the water system $231,000.

The council approved the gas department's hiring of Terry Lemke . His father, the late Mike Lemke, was a street department employee for a number of years.

The council approved a request from the park and cemetery board for an additional $2,000. The money will be used to complete the renovation of the chapel's main room. Thus far the chapel work has been financed with perpetual care money and donations.

Tim Schmidt, board chairman, explained the main room renovation was costing more than anticipated. With the $2,000, the work will continue at this time. If the money was not granted, work would stop until the perpetual care fund was sufficient to allow the continuation.

If the work progresses now, Schmidt said it would be easier to match the materials and finish.

Once the main room is completed, two smaller rooms will remain unfinished. However, Schmidt said the plan was not to start those rooms until additional funds were raised.

Schmidt said the workers were attempting to restore the chapel to its original appearance. He express satisfaction with the progress being made.

Permission was granted for the Superior Chamber of Commerce to hold a Halloween Day parade in downtown Superior. Central Avenue will be closed between Fifth and Third streets for about one hour starting at 4:30 p.m. on Halloween. This will be the second year for the parade.

Before the meeting, adjourned Mayor Billy Maxey's appointment of Rita Blauvelt to the parks and cemetery board was approved.