YOUNGSTOWN Council OKs sewer-rate increase

Members asked public works officials to work more closely with them.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Action on new sewers, a rebuilt road and an ambulance contract highlighted city council's meeting Wednesday:
UMembers approved a sewer-rate increase totaling 15 percent by 2006 to fund construction that will settle a potentially huge federal lawsuit against the city.
The average household pays $32.87 a month for sewer service, which is included in the city water bill. That will rise to $38.09 in 2006 under the settlement.
Money generated by the increase will pay for roughly $12 million in sewer system work the city negotiated with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The city faced paying $300 million, plus penalties, in the lawsuit, which would have quintupled sewer rates.
The city will pay a $60,000 fine and make the $12 million in improvements over the next six years under the settlement. The city must also develop a longer-range sewer improvement plan, estimated to cost $100 million over 20 years.
UMembers complained about the city's process but nonetheless voted to accept a $761,090 state Issue II grant and add $20,000 in matching funds to rehabilitate Sheridan Road.
The South Side project will mean new sewers, paving, reconfigured lanes, curbs, sidewalks and signals from Midlothian Boulevard to Meadowbrook Avenue.
Councilmen Artis Gillam Sr., D-1st, Rufus Hudson, D-2nd, and Richard Atkinson, R-3rd, complained about other priorities not being funded. They asked the public works department to change its process and work more closely with council. For example, the city must do more to address East Side flooding, Hudson said.
The Sheridan Road item should have come through a committee like most other council legislation, Hudson said, but it didn't.
Carmen Conglose Jr., city deputy director of public works, said he approached members for their ideas in November. The city used the same Issue II process as it has the past eight years, he said. The Sheridan project had the best chance for funding among all the proposals the city considered, Conglose said.
The city has put substantial money recently into alleviating East Side flooding, he added.
UMembers approved a two-year contract with Rural Metro Ambulance of Youngstown. Now, the city rotates calls between Rural Metro and Pellin Ambulance of Ellsworth.
Under the contract, Rural Metro will be the only ambulance service the city uses. In return, the company agrees to meet the city's goals on response times and other performance standards.

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