HERMITAGE City raises sewer bills to pay for improvements to system

The work is in response to state environmental officials' requirements.
HERMITAGE, Pa. -- City residents will see their sewer bills rise from $66 to $84 a quarter, effective Jan. 1.
That will raise the annual cost from $264 to $336, but it's the first in a series of increases the city says it needs to pay for $13 million in improvements to the municipal sewage treatment plant and various collector lines.
City commissioners introduced an ordinance Wednesday that would raise the quarterly rate to $84 as of Jan. 1, to $90 Jan. 1, 2004, and to $95 Jan. 1, 2005.
Commercial and industrial users will see the same percentage increase, officials said.
The ordinance has been scheduled for a public hearing at the Sept. 25 commissioners meeting.
City officials, in a prepared statement, said Hermitage has experienced normal increases in operating and maintenance costs, resulting in the sewer fund's year-end balance dropping to a low of just $180,000 at the end of 2001.
Coupled with that, the state department of environmental protection has said Hermitage is in violation of its waste treatment permit because not all of the equipment at the sewage plant is working.
The city faces fines if it doesn't address that problem, city officials said.
The state is also requiring Hermitage to deal with surface water infiltration into the system during periods of wet weather. That extra water results in overflows from the plant into the Shenango River.
Work planned
The city has unveiled a series of projects to meet the state's demands that includes major improvements to the treatment plant, renovations of the Golden Run, Bobby Run and Pine Hollow collector lines and renovations and a new line for the South Darby Road area to replace failing on-lot sewer systems.
Those projects carry a cost of $13.1 million.
The city has some money on hand but will have to borrow $10 million through a bond issue for the work, officials said.
Commissioners adopted a resolution Wednesday agreeing to make those improvements.
That response must be filed with the DEP by Saturday. Failure to respond could result in fines and a ban on all new connections to the sewer system, officials said.
Hermitage had decreased sewer rates for its 4,800 residential customers in both 1994 and 1995. The quarterly cost was $73.27 in 1993.

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