By Jeff Gallatin
Bay Village residents should expect to see some kind of sewer rate increase when the next round of bills goes out after April 1, Mayor Debbie Sutherland said Friday.
“I don’t see where we can put that off unfortunately,” Sutherland said. “That’s an enterprise fund so we can’t be running at a deficit with it. It’s going to require council action.”
Sutherland made the remarks after she and city engineers met with representatives of the Rocky River Wastewater Treatment Plant board earlier in the week. The officials had met to discuss Bay’s concerns about the last flow study and methodology for it used by plant officials to determine rates for each of the four cities (Bay Village, Fairview Park, Rocky River and Westlake) that use the treatment plant.
Sutherland said the meeting went well, but reiterated that the rate hike appears unavoidable.
“We all agreed that there are some anomalies that we’ll continue to look into, but we do have to address the cost issues,” she said. “We asked that they look at the methodology used to obtain data, which they agreed to do. And given the fact that there is now more modern equipment and facilities, we thought they could increase the frequency of the flow studies, from every four years to every three.”
Rocky River Mayor Pam Bobst said the treatment plant board will continue to cooperate with Bay Village officials in addressing their concerns. She noted they have already been going over the Bay Village officials’ concerns for several weeks now.
“We certainly can review the methodology and make sure that modern equipment is used in getting the study results,” she said. “It’s also good to note that each city can request flow data or study information early, which Bay did do several years ago when there was a broken line in one of its creeks, which was indeed affecting data and the flow from that city.”
Both Bobst and Sutherland noted that Bay Village and other Westshore cities have all had to put new equipment and other related facilities in during recent years to respond to federal Environmental Protection Agency mandates.
“The new equipment could well be affecting the sewer flow coming from Bay Village,” Bobst said, a fact which Sutherland also noted in her interview. “There are different reasons why Bay’s numbers are going up. We’ll certainly continue to work with with them to address those concerns while still making sure they get proper service.”
Sutherland said aside from service issues about the flow data, Bay Village officials will have to consider higher sewer fee rates for another reason as well – the EPA mandates and need for upgrades.
“Like many cities, we have to respond to the EPA mandates,” she said. “We have to deal with those or face problems with the EPA. Even if the flow data turns out lower at some point, we’re going to have to address financially the need to meet the EPA mandates with newer facilities.”
Sutherland said City Council will have to make the final call on rates.
Dwight Clark, chairman of City Council’s Finance Committee, said council remains aware of the concerns about the flow data and committed to finding the best possible answer.
“We’re going to have to address the rates issue; we just want the best possible data before doing so,” he said.
Currently Bay homeowners pay $65 per quarter, while businesses pay $24.02 per mcf (1,000 cubic feet), with a minimum charge of $171 annually. Clark said before those rates are raised, there will be discussion in council as well as a public meeting on the issue. Clark said he expects to have the date for the public meeting shortly, after council considers the most up-to-date flow study information.