Sewage rates set to riseAnyone who’s ever had sewage swirling in the basement knows the problem. The city of Superior has long been out of compliance with a mandate that doesn’t allow sanitary sewer overflows.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
Anyone who’s ever had sewage swirling in the basement knows the problem.
The city of Superior has long been out of compliance with a mandate that doesn’t allow sanitary sewer overflows.
The fix isn’t likely to make property owners happy either. The city’s efforts to come in compliance with the state and federal mandates is going to cost people more in sewage fees.
The council split 6-3 Tuesday night to approve a 28-cent increase per 100 cubic feet in the rate the city charges for sewage treatment. The rate will go from $7.43 to $7.71 to address necessary repairs at the treatment plant and sanitary sewer system.
The $5.50 flat rate won’t change.
Projects include replacing four pumps at the treatment plant that have been in place since 1958, said Steve Roberts, Environmental Services director.
“It’s not unusual for us to have one or more of those pumps out of service,” Roberts said. “As of today, we have two that won’t ramp up past 50 percent.”
As part of the project, the building will be plumbed to make a more efficient, effective pumping system. Roberts said those projects account for 12 cents of the rate increase.
Inflationary increases and other projects — replacing the heating and cooling systems in the administration building, creating a direct connection to the new ultraviolet disinfection system, reducing system bottlenecks — account for the remaining.
Because of water usage exceeding projections and savings in other projects, Roberts said the rate increase is about 13 cents per unit less than originally anticipated.
Still, the rate increase comes after two years of rate increases that raised the cost by about 27.65 percent in 2012 and another 19.88 percent this year, and didn’t sit well with some councilors. The rates remained unchanged for five years, forcing the city to dip into reserve funding to make necessary repairs and dwindling the ability to address emergencies.
“I’m sorry, I can’t support this,” said Councilor Esther Dalbec. “With the economy the way it is, I have people who live on a very fixed income, families with husbands and wives working living on a strict budget. It may not sound like a lot to some people but it is to them.”
Dalbec and Councilors Mick MacKenzie and Warren Bender voted against the increase.
However, the majority of the council — Dan Olson, Tom Fennessey, Denise McDonald, Terry Massoglia, Bob Finsland and Mike Herrick — recognized the need to do the projects to solve the city’s overflow problems.
“I don’t like doing this anymore than anybody else, but I support the process of implementing this in phases,” Fennessey said. “Otherwise this council is going to be sitting here four or five years from now with a real problem.”
By phasing in the projects to help the city meet its wastewater permit obligations, Fennessey said the city is able to decrease the impact on residents.
“None of us want to have any increases … at the same time, we don’t want the flooding and all this will eventually eliminate that,” Herrick said.
“I could be wrong, but I believe a good share of what we’re saddle with isn’t a dream of this council,” Fennessey said. “It’s state and federal mandates. A good share of it, we cannot postpone.”