The first readings of ordinances increasing water and sewer rates in the city of Decorah were approved by the Decorah City Council Monday night.

Three readings are required before an ordinance can be considered for adoption.

In April of 2012, the Council approved a 10-percent increase in water/sewer rates. At the time, water rates hadn't been adjusted since 2006, and sewer rates hadn't been adjusted since 2008. Last April, the Council also asked city staff to bring a proposal annually recommending an increase equal to the consumer price index (CPI), which is also used in adjusting salaries of city employees.

Before the Council approved the first reading, Council member Carolyn Corbin said she received a call from a constituent who was concerned about automatically raising rates annually based on the CPI, which is 2.2 percent this year. Corbin said the caller said water rates didn't necessarily increase at that rate. Corbin said she explained the city is trying to keep annual increases smaller, rather than having larger increases every few years.

City Manager Chad Bird responded rates aren't raised automatically because the Council decides whether to implement any increase. In addition, he said while the cost of water may not increase by the CPI, the infrastructure, overhead, fuel, electricity and salary costs involved in providing water service do, he said.

"Nominal increases" are needed to "keep pace" with those costs, he added.

Street signs, tables

In other matters Monday, the Council held the first reading of an ordinance amending city code regarding sidewalk displays. After reviewing sections of the code, the Decorah Planning and Zoning Commission recommended the Council consider an ordinance that regulates size and placement of signs, since they aren't currently referenced by city code.

The ordinance would allow temporary and portable signs no larger than 2 by 4 feet and only adjacent to a building/property line, not out along the curb line. The ordinance also extends merchants' use of the sidewalk to two feet where the sidewalk is less than 10 feet.

Bird said the Commission did not discuss the placement of tables and chairs on city sidewalks and suggested the Council might want to address regulating them.

Council member Gary Rustad, chair of the street committee, said tables and chairs should be included within the regulations of temporary signs, and the Council tabled action on the ordinance reading until its Monday, Aug. 5, meeting.

He scheduled a street committee meeting to discuss sidewalk signs, tables and chairs for Tuesday, July 23, at 6:30 p.m.