Sewer rates could be swirling upward

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 29, 2004

Every flush may soon cost Ironton residents a few extra cents.

To address what has been called a long-overdue problem, Ironton officials are considering increasing the city's sewer rate by $1.45 per thousand gallons over the next three years, bringing the total cost to $5.50 per thousand.

The hike would pay for operation costs, preventative maintenance and general upkeep of the city's sewer treatment plant. Wastewater treatment plant superintendent John Haskins said that by 2007 everything in the plant will be 20 years old.

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On the average, a residential household's bill would increase by approximately $9 by 2007, based on usage of 6,000 to 7,000 gallons, Haskins said.

City Finance Director Cindy Anderson outlined to the finance committee last week that the wastewater sewer fund continues to spend nearly $120,000 more than it brings in each year and that something has to be done before carryover balance slip further than the $91,000 projected for the end of the year.

"I think this problem has waited to the point where it is very critical that we get a revenue stream started so we can be prepared for the future," Councilman Brent Pyles said. "It is going to have to go up, whether by pennies, by nickels or quarters, going to have to go up."

Initially, Anderson created a worksheet for the department that included four increases through 2008.

Councilman Chuck O'Leary did not dispute the need for an increase but said he believes that it would be better to only raise rates twice over the next four years. So, Anderson generated projections based on that concept.

As proposed, the ordinance would raise the wastewater usage rates from $4.05 to $5 per thousand gallons effective January 2005 and then again to $5.50 per thousand gallons in January 2007.

These changes would allow for the department to purchase a street sweeper and new vac truck as well as keep the coffers from dwindling. The carryover would be more than $500,000.

The finance committee will meet again at 5:45 p.m. Thursday in the Ironton City Center to continue discussing the issue. The increase will also get at least first reading in the city council meeting at 6 p.m.

Sticking to financial issues, another key topic will be amending the 2004 budget to include the overtime expenses in the police and flood department and expenditures in the wastewater collection and sanitary sewer funds.

Still, the carryover balance shows an increase of more than $5,000 but still only brings the total to $315,603. Last year's carryover was $769,272.

"All this does is realign the revenue to where we think it will be at and the expenditures to where they need to be at to get us through the end of the year," Anderson said.

In other business, the council will vote on the city's latest version of the $10-per-month, per-household municipal fee.

Three other versions of the fee have been voted down previously.

If adopted, the proposal will cost retirees and others with no monthly income the full $10 per month. If someone pays any amount of income taxes up to a maximum of $60 per year then they would receive an equal amount refunded - if their water bills are up to date.

Council will also:

4Vote on the salary resolution that includes the recent hire of assistant fiance director Nate Kline. Kline, who came from an accounting firm in Huntington, W.Va., will be paid $31,000 annual salary. After six months, it will increase to $31,500.