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Increase in sewer water utility fee a possibility: Money funds EPA-mandated projects

To continue funding and stay in compliance with an Environmental Protection Agency-mandated sewer separation project, Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship said an increase in the city’s storm water utility fee is necessary.

“The sewer separation projects are funded with this fee, but so are other storm water-related issues,” Blankenship said. “It’s not something I want to do, but we have to comply with the EPA. We have been in compliance to this point and we want to continue to be in compliance.”

The current fee of $2 per 1,000 gallons of water used was implemented in 2006 for the specific purpose of paying for the sewer separation project. The fee generates nearly $500,000 annually. Blankenship is requesting that council double the fee to $4 per 1,000 gallons.

“I am asking for the increase to keep up with the funding needed for these sewer separation phases,” Blankenship said. “Bottom line, if we don’t (increase the fee), we are not going to have the money to pay for these phases when we don’t have a choice but to fix them; if we do not fix them on our deadline, on schedule, the EPA can and will hand down a fine to the city, which takes money out of that fund.”

Phase II of the sewer separation project was completed recently at a cost of $600,000. Blankenship projects phase III costing nearly $1 million, which is Mastin Avenue and the rest of south Ironton.

Other storm water issues are also repaired with money generated from the fee. A project on Carl Drive off State Route 141 to address flooding issues cost around $15,000 and Karen Street drainage issues caused by water runoff from U.S. 52 are currently being assessed.

“I’m having our engineer work up a potential solution to address the situation on Karen Street,” Blankenship said. “The increase is needed to pay for projects like these as well.”

Blankenship said increases could occur in the future until the project is complete.

“The sewer separation project is why the storm water fund was set up,” Blankenship said. “Once that project is complete, I feel the fee should be eliminated.”

It has not been determined when council will vote on the increase.