NEW WATERFORD - Determined to face up to deteriorating infrastructure and become grant-eligible to deal with it, council unanimously passed a first reading on Tuesday to raise water and sewer base rates beginning in September.
After hearing Mayor Shane Patrone and Fiscal Officer Dave Slagle explain the numbers and the village's ineligibility to acquire grant money to help replace water and sewer lines, Councilman Tom Cresanto said, "We are in dire straights, so we have to do something."
A near perfectly executed but rejected grant application tipped the village off to its problem.
Slagle and Councilman Gary DeMarchis both attended a March grant seminar where they learned that without meeting a1.5 percent median household income (MHI) threshold the village is ineligible to apply for grants based on what it charges.
Slagle said the village needs a $7 million fix to replace all of its water and sewer lines and the base rate structuring is the first step in addressing that and in reaching a $25.25 base rate for water and $25.25 base rate for sewer by 2017.
Dealing with the water side first, the base rate will increase from $19.75 to $22.25 on Sept. 1 and will reach $25.25 in December with another three dollar increase and bring it to grant eligibility.
There will be no increases until January of 2015 when the base sewer rate will increase from $15.25 to $17.25 with another two dollar increase in July of 2015 to $19.25; another two dollar increase will occur in January of 2016 to $21.25 and then in July of 2016 another two dollar increase to $23.25; and a final two dollar increase in 2017 will bring it to $25.25.
Slagle said U.S. Census numbers are used by grant and low-interest loan agencies like the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the Ohio Department of Development, the Ohio Water Development Authority and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and according 2010 census numbers the MHI for the village increased by over $10,000 since the 2000 census to $41,750.
"That's why we have to increase the rate," he said, "to meet the affordability requirement for a water and sewer plant."
Prior to the council meeting, the water and sewer committee discussed the issue and recommended its passage to council.
Patrone said the federal government changed its income evaluation procedure and increased it for "our grants ... we are stuck with the fact we don't qualify for grants according to the federal government we don't charge enough."
Slagle said a key component in grant acquisition is that communities have to demonstrate a willingness to help fund themselves by enacting affordable rates.
Patrone set a special meeting for the second reading on the rate restructuring ordinance for 6:30 p.m. June 25 at which time he expected action to also be taken on the village's LGF resolution.
Slagle, the mayor and council members encourage residents to attend that meeting with questions regarding the rate increase.
In other business, council approved a one-year fire contract with Fairfield Township to provide protection at $33,505.