Webster Board approves water rate increase

It’s same as it ever was for the Central Burnett Fair 

The Central Burnett County Fair (CBCF) has a new date, which is back to the original date, after all, as it was revealed at the Webster Village Board meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 11. 

According to Traci Hopkins from the CBCF Board of Directors, they decided to change the dates of the fair to later in September, apparently due to conflicts surrounding the truck and tractor pulls, and similar events happening at another festival at the same time.

Due to the pandemic, the Fair was not held last year, and there was initially some confusion on the date, which was originally set for Sept. 24-26, but that was changed earlier this year to an earlier date,  September 9-through 12.

But then the CBCF board recently decided to return to the original Sept. 24-26 date, so as not to compete with Osceola’s Community Fair and Wheels & Wings powersports events.

Hopkins also noted several upgrades to the Webster Fairgrounds, pointing out new bleachers, donated by the Webster School district, as well as a few other changes to the property, including work to the derby area, with additional fencing, as well. 

She also asked if the board was okay with them dedicating the horse arena to the late Rod Hopkins, who passed away in June and was a longtime supporter. She said the family offered to pay for the signage and the like, and she will present a proposal to the board in the coming weeks. 

But Hopkins repeated the big news that the Fair date change is back to the original date, again, Friday through Sunday, Sept. 24-26.

The Central Burnett Fair starts at 8 a.m., at the Webster Fairgrounds, located 2 blocks west of State Hwy. 35 on West Alder/Fairgrounds Rd. As we get closer to the Fair, the events, vendors, activities and other details will be noted in the Sentinel.

In other Webster Village Board business:

• After a lengthy discussion and update by trustee Aaron Sears on committee discussions on water rates, the board discussed their apparent need to raise their rates, to meet Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) minimums for a rate of return, which is currently 1.3-percent, but needs to be at least 4.9-percent. The rate increase is driven by the PSC and their policy of the village having sufficient reserves in their water fund for things like maintenance of their water tower, replacing water lines, meters and equipment.

“If they force us to do it, it could be $5,000 to $8,000,” Sears said with a shrug, noting that according to the PSC, they must raise their rates a minimum of 3-percent.

Village president Jeff Roberts pointed out that the village has among the lowest water rates in the state, in part to help people on fixed incomes. 

“We’re so far behind, because we’ve tried to keep it reasonable for citizens,” Roberts said.

Sears urged the board to go for the ‘short increase’ or simplified process, to save deeper scrutiny. Sears and others seemed to be in favor of looking at the rates again in early 2022. 

In the end, the board voted to do a ‘simplified’ increase for the coming quarter of 3-percent, with a review of the rates again in January. 

• The board also approved the purchase of upgraded tablets for remote water meter reading, which will allow them to use their current meters and new type, as well as allow for the fact that they are running out of their old  supply of meters for new construction, which are becoming technologically obsolete with remote readings. The new system will cost approximately $14,000, with the money coming from the water fund. 

• The board discussed creating a standard for their setbacks on the Gandy Dancer Trail, which could be as little as 10-feet to as much as 30-feet. They split the difference, agreeing on a 20-foot setback from the trail right-of-way, although some structures are currently closer than 20-feet, but are ‘grandfathered in,’ as there was no standard zoning setback previously.  

• The board approved a proclamation for the Larsen Family Library celebration for this coming Sept. 11, as they celebrate 30 years of the library.

  The board reviewed and commented on plats and plans for the west end of Main Street, where the village is looking to extend their utility services, as well as Main Street proper, down the road. Mark Krause outlined plans for splitting the Connie Bushy property and several other aspects of creating easements and the like for the sewer and water lines. 

“It’s part of the three-prongs of what we’re doing,” Krause said as the board approved the plat and plans, with more details on possible Main Street extension coming in the near future.

• Harriet Rice outlined the plans for new ‘welcome’ sings at both ends of the village, as they are applying a $1,200 Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative ‘Operation Roundup’ grant to the effort, which will cost $1,450 in total. 

• Village clerk/treasurer Debra Doriott-Kuhnly noted information she received from regional planners that there is a Main Street ‘Bounce Back’ program grant available for vacant building occupation, possibly allowing up to $10,000 toward the purchase. She encouraged people to look closer, as there are several eligible properties downtown.