HERMITAGE Sewer bills to rise, but officials study how much, when

Hermitage is looking at more than $13 million worth of work, and rates must be raised to pay for it.
HERMITAGE, Pa. -- City residents will see their sewer bills go up about 45 percent over the next three years, to $380 a year.
City officials say the increase is necessary to pay for a variety of sanitary sewer improvements, including extensive work at the sewage treatment plant on Broadway Road.
The city plans to borrow $10 million by selling bonds to help finance the work, outlining the plans at a city commissioners' work session Wednesday.
City Manager Gary Hinkson said Hermitage is under a directive from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to come up with a plan by Aug. 30 to correct what the state said are violations of the treatment plant's operating permit.
The state is concerned with sewage overflows from the plant during periods of very wet weather as well as with some parts of the treatment system that are inoperative, he said.
City officials have been warning for months that a rate increase was coming.
Hinkson revealed a suggested series of increases that he proposed to take effect beginning Oct. 1.
Hermitage charges a flat quarterly fee of $66 to its 4,800 residential customers now. The proposed rate increase was to rise to $75 per quarter as of Oct. 1, $82.50 per quarter as of Jan. 1, 2003, $90 per quarter as of Jan. 1, 2004, and $95 per quarter as of Jan. 1, 2005.
Rates for all other users (commercial, industrial and residents of other municipalities whose sewage is treated by Hermitage) would face the same percentage increases, Hinkson said.
However, the first rate increase probably won't take effect until Jan. 1, 2003, and the residential number will likely be in the $83-$84-per-quarter price range.
Here was concern
Commissioner Larry Gurrera said that implementing a rate increase effective Oct. 1 is just too quick and won't give the public time to adjust to the idea.
He suggested dumping the $75-per-quarter rate entirely and going with at least $82.50 as of Jan. 1, 2003.
Commissioners Joseph Augustine and Sylvia Stull agreed.
Hinkson said that will require some adjustment to the proposed increases to raise the amount of money needed.
The Jan. 1, 2003, increase could be in the $83-$84-per-quarter range instead of $82.50, he said.
He noted that the city reduced sewer rates in both 1994 and 1995. Residential costs had stood at $73.27 a quarter in 1993, he said.
Hinkson said the scope of proposed improvements totals about $13.1 million.
The city has $500,000 on hand to help pay for that work but will have to borrow $10 million more, he said.

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