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Leetonia council sets sewer rate increase

LEETONIA– Village Council has settled on the amount of increase to sewer rates it will consider to take effect in January.

Council this week authorized Village Solicitor Walter Newton to draft legislation raising the minimum rate to $27.95 per month and set the usage rate at $3.97 for each 1,000 gallons over 1,000. The legislation will also include a $2.50 service fee for each the sewer and water capital funds specifically for improvements to the water and sewer lines and system.

The new rates for the average use of 3,800 gallons for residential customers will be an increase of $9.81 – from the current $30.05 to $39.86. For the use of 40,000 gallons for the average commercial customers, it would be $58.09. The current rates are $24.95 for the minimum and $2.55 for every 1,000 gallons over 2,000.

The increase in rates will generate approximately $67,000 annually, which only keeps the wastewater plant operating. The service charges will generate approximately $21,780 annually for each capital fund.

Additionally, council authorized Mayor Kevin Siembida to draft a letter explaining the intent and reasoning of the increases that will be delivered to all customers.

Council last month asked Fiscal Officer Randy Chismar and the administrators to develop a recommendation for increases after Siembida reported the sewer operating fund will be depleted by the end of the year due to inflation and a reduction in the rates five years ago when council paid off a loan. Councilman Neal Bayless, chairman of the water and sewer committee, finalized the amounts and presented them to council Wednesday night.

Council members said they wanted an increase in rates that most evenly shared the burden between residential and commercial customers.

The legislation does not include future increases being considered by council.

A CMOM (Capacity Management Operations and Maintenance) program, or asset management review for waste water, created in 2018 by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA), suggested increasing rates 35 percent in 2019, 20 percent in 2020 and 3 percent each year through 2027, taking the minimum rate up to $48.26 per month to address increased operational costs and upgrades to an aging infrastructure of damaged water and sewer lines. Bayless’ plan calls for a 5 percent increase in 2022 and a 3 percent increase each following year through 2026.

Council President JR Ferry asked if the rates will be affected if the City of Salem, from which the village purchases water, increases its water rates next year.

Siembida responded that an increase in Salem water rates will not affect the village’s sewer rates, although is might affect the village’s water rates. However, Chismar noted the new service charge for water capital should be enough to handle a minimal increase in Salem rates.

Council intends to hold all three readings on the legislation and encourages customers to share their opinions. The third reading would be held on the second meeting of January to take effect with the January bills.

Council will continue to meet at 6:30 p.m. at village hall, but the public is strongly encouraged to attend online, with a link available on the village’s website (leetonia.org). The next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 16.

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