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Public Works officials, wastewater task force discuss rate hike options

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As members of the city of Springfield Wastewater Improvements Task Force narrow possible sanitary sewer rate-hike scenarios to address increased regulation and an aging collection system, officials say they want public input.

A stakeholders’ meeting to discuss rate increases that could go into effect by July 1 will be held at 4 p.m. on Feb. 15 at the city’s sanitary services building at 1216 W. Nichols St.

Ed Malter, interim assistant director of Public Works-Environmental Services, said that as the 25-member task force moves forward with plans to recommend to City Council a rate increase, it wants to be forthcoming with citizens about the need as well as answer any questions those affected by the possible changes would have.

“A big part of what we’ve tried to do is pull together the community and make sure it is tracking information on the process,” Malter said.

In July, Public Works’ officials met with councilmembers to discuss upgrades mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to prevent sanitary system overflows, or SSOs, which are prohibited under the Clean Air Act of 1972. The Wastewater Improvements Task Force, which comprises a cross-section of public officials and ratepayers, was then established to determine how to fairly divide the costs of improvements to sewer users.

The costs of improvements, according to Malter, are still unknown, but are expected to be in the millions of dollars.

According to task force co-chairman Ken McClure, the group has held five meetings since September to address the widening gap between wastewater expenditures and revenues. Wastewater fund reserves are projected to be $8.02 million by the end of June, and, according to Public Works’ officials, are declining.

Malter said the balance has been as high as $30 million in recent years, but water usage has fallen off during the economic downturn. Steve Meyer, co-interim assistant director of Public Works-Environmental Services, said conservation efforts as well as companies like Willow Brooks Foods shutting down have had an impact on revenues.

Now, Public Works’ officials are trying to bring the balance back up to around $20 million by fiscal 2017.

The task force has been looking at five options for increasing revenues, and is leaning toward a plan that would hike wastewater rates by $4.02 per month in fiscal 2012 and then by $5.45 per month in fiscal 2013, with moderate increases to follow.

The current average monthly charge is $15.46. All five options would bring average monthly fees to around $28 by fiscal 2017.

For more information, see Springfield Business Journal’s Feb. 14 print edition.[[In-content Ad]]


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