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Sewer rates in Bay expected to go up $25 per quarter

By Jeff Gallatin

Bay Village

With a proposed $25 per quarter hike in sewer fees for residents, Bay Village officials expect discussion on the coming increase at a public meeting on the issue set for March 31 at the Dwyer Memorial Center.

City Council introduced legislation for the rate increase at Monday’s regular meeting. Officials have said the increase needs to be put in place for the next round of bills, which go out after April 1, to avoid additional financial issues.

City officials said the rate increase is necessary, and then want to make sure the public understands why.

“We’ve had upgrades in the sewer system facilities and infrastructure for Bay Village which have resulted in an increased flow and usage,” Mayor Debbie Sutherland said. “We’ve been responding to federal EPA mandates which required much of the changes. We have to address the cost of those changes, unfortunately.”

City Council President Paul Koomar said placing the public meeting on the rate increase for the town hall meeting set for March 31 at the Dwyer Center would help give the public as much information as possible. It is the first town hall meeting in several years in Bay Village, so officials are planning for a big turnout.

“It seemed to be a good opportunity to tell as much of the public as possible at one meeting,” Koomar said. “We already had planned to have the council members and directors go over what was going on in their committees and departments. Since we expect a lot of the public at the town hall meeting, it will give us the chance to present the information and for the public to ask any questions they have about it.”

Sutherland noted the city is prohibited by law from having a deficit in the sewer fund, so the increases need to be put into place.

In this case, Bay officials said current figures show maintaining current rates would lead to a projected $486,000 deficit in the Bay sewer fund based on the flow study figures of Bay Village’s sewer use provided by the Rocky River Wastewater Treatment Plant Board. Officials at the Rocky River Wastewater Treatment Plant Board use the flow studies to determine rates for each of the four cities – Bay Village, Fairview Park, Rocky River and Westlake – that use the plant’s facilities.

Currently, Bay Village residents pay $260 annually. The projected increase would take that to $335 each year. The 55 commercial accounts in Bay Village currently pay $24.02 per mcf (1,000 cubic feet) with a minimum charge of $171 annually. The current projections would increase that to $30.03 per mcf, but not less than $246 annually.

Both Koomar and Dwight Clark, chairman of City Council’s Finance Committee, noted that after getting preliminary figures on the flow study indicating the need for a rate increase, city officials had raised questions about the figures, as well as how the flow studies are done. Sutherland and city officials met with the sewer board. The board agreed to look at dropping outdated testing techniques, possibly changing the frequency of the flow studies and reviewing sources of information for the studies, but said it found no “smoking gun” indicating possible errors in the study data.

“We knew that some type of increase would have to be done, but we wanted to review all the information properly and see what our alternatives were,” Clark said. “We are going to act on this information, but we also wanted to start looking at whether we should consider different ways of doing it, such as installing meters to read it on a regular basis, making it more like a property tax on residents or finding other ways of doing this. We’ve been fortunate in Bay because we’ve had infrastructure improvements to our sewer lines and we haven’t passed those on to the customers. But it’s reached the point where we have to be able to pay for that work because as an enterprise fund, we can’t run the sewer fund with a deficit.”

 

 

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