×

Panel eyes more scenarios for sewer rate hike

SALEM

The city Utilities Commission discussed a few more scenarios for raising sewer rates Tuesday, but the decision on what to forward to council won’t come until Thursday.

The commission hosted a special meeting via Zoom to evaluate the recommendation made by the Rural Community Assistance Program last month in it’s sewer rate study.

Commission Chair Bob Hodgson explained the sewer rate study and a few scenarios he came up with, where numbers were changed slightly, will help the members formulate the request to city council for a sewer rate increase.

He said the decision on what increase to recommend will be made at the regular meeting Thursday.

A previous increase requested several years ago to raise the minimum sewer base rate by $5 was turned down by council. City council has the last say on any sewer rate increases while the commission has the final word on water rate increases. The sewer minimum base has remained $5.11 since 1995.

Whatever is decided, Hodgson said the bottom line is that the department is looking at upcoming sewer plant upgrades with price tags of $15 million to $18 million to cover what’s required by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and make the plant more efficient, which could in turn decrease operating costs.

The current sewer rate isn’t enough to keep up with rising costs and OEPA mandates.

“Some action needs to be taken to keep financially stable,” RCAP senior rural development specialist Joe Lawrie said.

RCAP recommended a $13 per customer increase on the monthly minimum sewer bill and a 2.10 percent increase to the monthly sewer usage rate this year. The study also recommended a $5 per customer increase to the monthly minimum sewer bill and 2.10 percent increase to the monthly sewer usage rate for each additional year through 2025.

Under the scenario by RCAP, the monthly sewer bill for the average user of 4,500 gallons per month or 600 cubic feet of wastewater would increase from $15.34 per month to $28.66 per month this year. By 2025, the average user would pay up to $51.78 per month for sewer service. That does not include the water portion of the bill.

Hodgson reviewed his own scenarios, plugging in a slightly smaller increase to the monthly minimum sewer base and a higher percentage increase to the usage rate.

On one chart, the minimum monthly base was increased by $11 the first year, $5 for subsequent years, with a monthly usage rate increase of 7 percent in the first year and 2.1 percent in subsequent years.

Another scenario set the minimum monthly base increase to $12 in the first year, $5 for subsequent years, with a monthly usage rate increase of 4 percent in the first year and 2.5 percent in subsequent years.

Wayne Cannon, another RCAP senior rural development specialist, said he would lean toward an option that gives the department some money left at the end to cover other OEPA requirements expected in the future. For the usage rate percentage increase, he suggesting going with 5 percent in the first year and 2.75 percent in subsequent years.

“I think you’re at a pretty good range here,” Lawrie said.

The numbers won’t scare off business users, he said.

Hodgson said they also need to do something about the infiltration problem with storm water getting into the system. The RCAP report said less than half of the water treated at the sewer treatment plant was paid for through customers, meaning the city wasn’t getting paid for half the water being treated.

Regarding the rate increase, commission member Kyle Cranmer said it’s a matter of minimizing the impact at the beginning for customers and spreading it out over time. He said people in the community have asked him why the increase wasn’t done before.

He said the general public may not be as outraged as they think regarding an increase.

The commission will hold its regular monthly meeting at 4 p.m. Thursday. To attend, use Zoom Meeting ID: 922 7815 5040 and

Passcode: 876209 or use https://zoom.us/j/92278155040?pwd=dUdibFYyOWpHU29rNWNqcnBEbkdLQT09.

mgreier@salemnews.net

NEWSLETTER

Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
   

Starting at $4.39/week.

Subscribe Today