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Sewage rate change on hold

BSuperior residents won't take a hit on their sewage rates in January. Mayor Dave Ross withdrew a request from city administration to raise sewer fees 4 percent for each of the next five years. The rate of increase would have been held down with ...

BSuperior residents won't take a hit on their sewage rates in January.

Mayor Dave Ross withdrew a request from city administration to raise sewer fees 4 percent for each of the next five years. The rate of increase would have been held down with a $250,000 subsidy from money the city currently uses to pay down debt over the next five years to fill the gap on a proposed 8.75 percent increase.

The City Council accepted the mayor's withdrawal without discussion.

Ross said after discussing the issue with citizens and city councilors, he had a "hearty discussion" with the city's Environment Services Division staff, Finance Director Jean Vito and others involved in determining the new rates. More time is needed to adequately explain whatever rate we come forward to propose, he said.

"Apparently there is one more study Mr. Romans is waiting for," Ross said of the city's Environmental Services Administrator Dan Romans. "It would give us more exact costs on some of these projects. One of the sticking points has been ... there has not been enough public awareness of this rate increase to give adequate time for feedback. The second thing is the exactness of costs. The dollar amounts that were included ... were too broad and not specific enough. Apparently the study we're waiting for will give us more of a scope of what these projects should cost."

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The mayor said a specific timeline on when the study will be complete has not been determined.

Ross also acknowledged there was no consensus among councilors that would have allowed any rate increase to pass.

During the Finance Committee meeting last month, Councilor Dan Olson declined to support sending the rate increase back to the council, because as a citizen, he felt his rates were too high already.

City residents pay a $2 fixed fee monthly in addition to a charge of $4.96 per 100 cubic foot of water - about 750 gallons - already. At 4 percent, those unit costs would have increased the usage charge to $6.03 per unit in five years, plus increased the fixed charge.

Without the city subsidy, those usage charges would have increased to $7.54 per unit.

Superior resident and businessman Kevin Peterson pointed out to the Finance Committee that when the subsidy ended in five years, the city would have to raise the rate 25 percent in a single year to make up the difference.

Ross said he doesn't believe the council is ready to act on the request so the prudent thing to do is take more time and wait for the results of the study.

"They want us to do a better job of presenting data, and I fully concur," Ross said.

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