2010-01-23 / News

Small sewer rate increase approved

By Charles Prince

NEWARK – Sewer bills are going up for Buckeye Lake Sewer District customers. The modest $1 per month increase – from $45 per month per EDU to $46 per month – will be effective Feb. 16. Customers will see the increase in the bill they receive in early April.

The $1 per month increase is 50 percent less than the Licking County Water and Wastewater’s original proposal. In a December 21 meeting, county commissioners said they wanted to minimize the increase given the budgetary pressures many customers are experiencing, while avoiding past practices that left rates unchanged for years which then required large increases to catch up and pay for required system improvements.

Water and Wastewater Director Kevin Eby reviewed the proposed 2010 budget with Merv Bartholow and Tim Weisert of the Buckeye Lake Area Civic Association. Both were part of the small group that came up with lower cost funding in 2007 for the wastewater treatment plant expansion.

Eby’s 2010 budget projects very little growth in customers. A collection line extension under I-70 to serve the Pilot Travel Center, will hopefully add additional customers on the north side of I-70. That line was intentionally oversized. “MPW is interested in service,” Licking County Commissioner Doug Smith said on Dec. 21.“We view this as a potential revenue stream for Licking County.”

The district will get dozens of new customers in the Jacksontown area after Ohio EPA told county commissioners to stop polluting a stream with raw sewage from failing septic tanks. But that won’t happen this year, since Ohio EPA turned down the county’s original plan to extend the district’s collection system.

The largest increase in the 2010 budget is for salaries, up

154,000. Most of that increase reflects the district’s response to the commissioners’ plea for all departments to reduce expenditures by at least 10 percent. The director’s salary and benefits had been paid by the county’s general revenue fund. Now that expense will be borne by sewer customers. The increase also reflects the cost to fill an open operator’s position at the plant. Filling the position that had been open for two years will reduce overtime. There will be no staff raises in 2010.

Several expense categories have been adjusted to reflect the actual costs incurred operating the new plant in 2009. Some items in the 2009 budget were basically guess-estimates since there was no operating history. There will be no transfers to the Repair and Replacement Fund this year. Last year, $100,000 was transferred to the fund.

Water rates will be going up for Harbor Hills residents. The county is passing along a price increase from the Village of Hebron. The village’s water sales have declined significantly as the costs of its expanded water treatment plant have started coming due. Effective January 1, Hebron increased its bulk rate to the county from $7.50 to $9.45 per 1,000 gallons.

That increase is pushing up the minimum residential bill from $30.40 per month to $32.00 per month for the first 2,000 gallons used. Usage over 2,000 gallons a month will cost $1.51 per 100 gallons.

The commercial rate which covers Lakewood Schools, Harbor Hills Country Club and a bar is increasing from $2.01 per 100 gallons to $2.51 per 100 gallons. The water rate increases are also effective Feb. 16.

Eby said county commissioners have sent a draft contract proposal for Buckeye Lake officials to review. Buckeye Lake has proposed selling bulk water to the county for $5.25 per 1,000 gallons. Buckeye Lake will be simply transferring bulk water purchased from the Village of Millersport to Licking County. The county’s contract with the Village of Hebron expires at the end of the year.

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