2007-04-07 / News

$37 sewer rate is official

By Charles Prince NEWARK - It's now official.

NEWARK - It's now official. Buckeye Lake Sewer District customers will start paying $37 per EDU per month beginning with their bill due June 15.

Licking County Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution Monday morning increasing the monthly rate from $29 per EDU to $37 per EDU. This 28 percent hike only covers increased operating expenses. It is the first rate change since January 1, 2001.

Another rate increase to cover the cost of the $10 million treatment plant expansion mandated by a consent decree with US EPA and Ohio EPA will be enacted in 8-20 months, depending on whether the district receives a low interest Water Pollution Control Loan Fund loan from Ohio EPA. WPCLF loan awards won't be announced until the end of this year.

If the district receives a one or 3.25 percent WPCLF loan, the next rate increase will probably be effective January 1, 2009, since the first payment on that loan isn't due until July 2009. However, if Ohio EPA turns down the district, the plant expansion will have to be refinanced with more costly revenue bonds, likely prompting another rate increase effective January 1, 2008.

In a detailed rate analysis presented to commissioners March 22, Licking County Finance Director Chad Fuller listed the best case/worst case for a WPCLF loan as $10.75 per EDU per month/$13.50 for a total bill of $47.75 to $50.50 per month. For revenue bonds, Fuller estimates the best/worst cases at $12.50 per EDU per month/$14.25 per EDU per month. That works out to a total bill of $49.50 to $51.25 per month. The debt repayment portion of the bill wouldn't increase over the 20 year term of a WPCLF loan or the 30 year term of the bonds. In reality, it would decline as more customers are added to the system.

The resolution approved Monday also increases the residential connection fee from $3,000 to $6,000 effective April 15, 2007. Units under construction must apply for a tap permit before April 15. Commissioners accepted a suggestion from the customers group that the Jacksontown residents that are likely to be forced to connect to the district later this year be spared the tap fee increase. That protection is broadened a bit with this statement: "Retain or modify the pre April 15, 2007 connection fee of $3,000 per EDU for residential units that are deemed a source of pollution according to the Ohio EPA and/ or local health department and are required to connect to the Buckeye Lake Sewer District #1." Any applicants for the reduced fee would have to provide officialdocumentation and the connection fee would also have to be approved by commissioners.

The connection charge for commercial users is increased from $4,000 per EDU to $6,000 per EDU with the same conditions. The resolution also caps the commercial connection fee at $61,000 for "establishments with 12 EDU's or greater."

That new cap saves the Buckeye Lake Eagles a bundle according to interim Director Kevin Eby. Ohio EPA is requiring the organization to connect to the district's line that runs on the east side of Ohio 79. The connection fee per the "Green Book" would have been $130,000 according to Eby. Now, they will pay $61,000. "It will be a significantsource of revenue," he added. "We'll get them tied in ASAP."

E b y a l s o u p d a t e d commissioners about boring under I-70 to connect the Pilot Travel Center on Ohio 37. He said Pilot is facing some significantfines from Ohio EPA for past violations. Eby hopes the fines can be put toward the cost of extending the line under I-70. Though there has been some discussion about continuing up Ohio 37 to MPW, Luray and possibly National Trail Raceway, Eby said the focus is on Pilot for now.

Eby also reported on a "major find" on inflowand infiltration. A 10-inch storm sewer was found connected to the sanitary sewer along Ohio 360. Eby said it will be disconnected this week. He said the Ohio Department of Transportation has been notified and will have to deal with the additional water.

Tim Weisert, a member of the customer group, expressed concern during Monday's meeting about the commitment of the district's consultant to obtaining the low interest loan from Ohio EPA. "We need to continue the focus on the low interest loan," he said. Customers would save some $7-8 million dollars in interest cost with the one percent WPCLF loan, Weisert reminded commissioners.

"I don't think they (the consultant) are as optimistic," Commissioner Marcia Phelps said.

"We're doing all we can to secure the lower interest rate," Eby added.

Commission President Tim Bubb said about 10 applications have been received for the director's position. No interviews have been scheduled.

Customers will be receiving a letter explaining the rate increase and reminding them that another one will be required to retire the plant debt.

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