• 46°

Commission OKs cut in Union-Rome Sewer District

CHESAPEAKE — The average customer of the Union-Rome Sewer District will start saving $29.88 annually, as soon as the new rate reduction goes into effect.

That change was unanimously approved by the Lawrence County Commission at its meeting on Tuesday. The commission had changed its weekly Thursday date to take the meeting to the eastern end of the county at the Rome Township Volunteer Fire Department.

The new rate for users of 4,500 gallons — the average rate at the Chesapeake plant — is $49.99 or a reduction of $2.49 per monthly bill.

“We were really wanting to get it below $50,” Les Boggs, commission president, said. “The OWDA (Ohio Water Development Authority) up until 2014 said what your rates are going to be. In 2014 we could look at the rates and change them if we could.”

In order to do that the commission asked South Point CPA Robert Payne to analyze the district’s financials. That report came in last week.

Of the individual monthly rate, $27.54 is required for operation with $21.49 for debt reduction on the plant. Right now the county pays $1,254,000 annually on its debt for building the approximately $25 million plant.

“None of the commission was on when it was built,” Boggs said. “The former commissioners were saying it would be a $15 million plant, but it went way over budget. It is one of the best plants, but it cost $24 million.”

At the commission’s meeting of Sept. 18, commissioner Bill Pratt expressed his concern about the penalty placed on delinquent accounts. Currently it is 15 percent monthly. That could take a $629 bill and turn it into $1,713.

“That is over $1,000 in penalties,” Pratt said.

The penalties were going into the capital improvements fund for the sewer plant.

“Our thoughts are it is not fair to grow the business on the backs of the people,” Pratt said.

After a year of delinquency the bill is applied to the customer’s property tax, which could eventually put the property into foreclosure.

Now that 15 percent penalty will only be applied to accounts annually.

“That is not quite $100 in penalties,” Pratt said.

Also at Commissioner Freddie Hayes Jr.’s request a committee will be set up to review the tap fees charged by the sewer district.

“It is not a huge decrease but we certainly went in the right direction,” Boggs said. “We feel the fees are too exorbitant. None of us were there when we built the state-of-the-art plant and we can’t help but pay for it now.”

Boggs hopes to put the rates into effect in November.

“I am not saying it can be this way permanently,” he said. “We are trying to give a little relief to people — people making decisions between sewer bills and medication.”