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The City Council today decided to spend $344,000 on studies that break down the city’s costs for providing water and sewer services, but questions arose about their timing in relation to new fees that the mayor is expected to propose.

These studies will be conducted at the same time the Mayor’s Office performs an analysis of the rates paid by users of the two systems.

Rich Haas, the public works chief for Mayor Jerry Sanders, said the administration hopes to propose a “rate adjustment” package to the council by Nov. 27, which may happen before the cost-of-service studies are completed.

Sanders has said publicly that he expects that water and sewer fees will have to be increased in order to pay for necessary improvements to the water and wastewater systems that will help the city comply with federal and state regulations.

Councilwoman Donna Frye said at Tuesday’s meeting that she would not approve new fees until the cost-of-service studies were complete.

The last cost-of-service studies were issued in October 2003. Federal law mandates that sewer systems undergo a study every two years, but water systems do not have a similar requirement.

EVAN McLAUGHLIN

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