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Council approves wastewater rate hikes

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During its May 31 meeting, Springfield City Council voted 8-1 to approve wastewater increases designed to fund system improvements and raise the operating balance of the city's sewer fund. The vote came after city officials reached an agreement to spread out hikes for the city’s largest industrial customers.

Residential and commercial customers will be charged the same base rate and volume charges per cubic foot with the changes, but commercial customers will have higher bills on average due to their expected usage levels. Residential users are expected to see their rates climb to $28.07 in fiscal 2017 from $15.46 now. Commercial clients, who currently pay roughly $97.06 now, can expect their average bills to rise to $176.09 by fiscal 2017.

Rates will actually go down for 17 industrial customers by 3 cents per pound for the treatment of biochemical oxygen demand, a common pollutant that can lead to fish kills, starting Jan. 1, 2012, before climbing steadily after fiscal 2014.

Biochemical oxygen demand charges are starting fiscal 2012 in July at roughly 25 cents per pound, but will be about 22 cents per pound starting next year. In fiscal 2014, the rate would increase to roughly 24 cents before climbing to about 46 cents per pound in fiscal 2018.

At the May 16 council meeting, Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper Bottling Co. Vice President Sally Hargis said the proposed hike would have increased its wastewater rates by 36 percent in the first year alone.

Steve Meyer, co-interim director of Public Works Environmental Services, said after the meeting that the agreed upon rate plan allowed industrial ratepayers time to plan for future increases.

“It’s the same amount being collected, it’s just spread out over a longer period of time,” Meyer said.

City Manager Greg Burris said he was pleased that a compromise could be reached for those facing the high-strength surcharge.

“Nobody wants to pay more, but what we did was try to make the increases more palatable,” Burris said, noting he and other city staff had met with representatives from the companies hours before the meeting and believed the amended proposal was more manageable.

The amended bill saw no public speakers, and because city attorneys said the changes were not substantive, council was allowed to vote on the increases that will pay for $50 million in system improvements and increase the fund balance from $8 million to $20 million.

For more on the May 31 City Council meeting, look to the June 6 Springfield Business Journal print edition.[[In-content Ad]]

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