Saturday, March 31, 2018
By David Skolnick
Sewer rates in Youngstown are likely to increase again.
City council will consider legislation Wednesday to have the board of control enter into a $66,240 contract with Arcadis, an international firm with an office in Akron, to conduct a study that city officials say will almost certainly recommend a sewer-rate increase.
The increases are to pay for the approximately $150 million in federally mandated improvements the city is required to have done.
“They’re going to do a study to raise rates as a result of the work required of us,” said Kyle Miasek, interim finance director. “We need enough money to fund the mandates.”
Charles Shasho, deputy director of public works, added: “I would say considering the amount of construction we’ll have a rate increase. The projects have to be financed. I would expect a rate increase will be recommended.”
If approved by council and the board of control, the study should take a couple of months to complete, Shasho said.
A rate increase, which must be approved by city council, would likely take effect in January 2019.
Council last approved a rate increase in November 2014 that started Jan. 1, 2015. Council agreed to sewer-rate increases of 3.99 percent a year for 2015-2018 for its 22,000 wastewater customers.
The monthly sewer rate went from $84.55 per 1,000 cubic feet before the increases started in 2015 to $98.87 on Jan. 1 of this year.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency originally ordered the city in 2002 to spend $310 million on improvements to its wastewater system. Because of the expense, the city entered into negotiations with the EPA from 2003 to 2011 in an attempt to lower that figure.
In 2011, the city received notification from the EPA that it wouldn’t seek $310 million in improvements because of the strain it would put on city residents.
It wasn’t until 2014 that the city and the EPA settled on about $150 million in work over 20 years. The projects are focused on upgrades to the city’s wastewater treatment plant, a new facility near the plant to better control sewage in heavier rainfalls and an interceptor to keep wastewater from flowing into Mill Creek MetroParks.
Nearly all of the work to date has been on improving the treatment plant, Shasho said. That includes $30 million in contracts with about $20 million worth of projects to be done in the near future, he said.
A rate study every four years is also required in the EPA settlement, Shasho said.