Council sets public hearing for ordinance change, paving way for sewer, water rate increases

St. Louis City Council took another step on the road to raising water and sewer rates Tuesday, April 17.

Council set a May 1 public hearing for a change to the utility rates ordinance, paving the way for council to raise sewer and water charges by 10 percent a year for seven years, as recommended by a company the city hired to assess water and sewer rates.

The public hearing, required by law, gives citizens an opportunity to object before the ordinance is officially enacted.

Municipal Analytics of Ann Arbor has recommended the seven annual increases in water and sewer charges so that the city can afford to repair parts of the sewer and water system that are in poor condition.

Recent examination of the city’s 22 miles of sanitary sewer pipe showed that 4.43 miles of it is in need of attention.

The dilapidated pipe is located all over the city. If you live within the city limits you are probably within one block of a stretch of sewer pipe in need of repair or replacement.

A chart within the Municipal Analytics plan shows the monthly water and sewer cost for a homeowner who uses 4,000 gallons of water per month rising from $62.70 under the current formula to $68.76 in July 2018 (the beginning of fiscal year 2019) if city council enacts the ordinance and votes to approve the first 10 percent increase.

If subsequent annual rate increases are approved, that charge will rise to $123.19 in 2026.

(To see how many gallons of water you use, grab your latest city utility bill and check the number under the Usage column that corresponds to water or sewer. Multiply it by 100 to get the number of gallons you used.)

The plan is the result of state government requirements for municipalities to keep water and wastewater utilities up to date and comes with a $1 million grant. The city is required to modify its rate structure for water and sewer to fund infrastructure upkeep.

“The rates currently in effect, combined with other revenues, are not sufficient to produce the revenue required to fund the operations, maintenance, debt service and capital needs of the water and sewer systems,” the Municipal Analytics report said.

Municipal Analytics tested several scenarios and recommended one that “provided the best balance between financial needs, revenue reliability and customer impacts,” the report said.

“The initial rate adjustment would result in about a 10 percent increase for the typical residential customer… Going forward, the annual increase in rates is expected to be 10 percent for each of the next 6-7 years. Then rate adjustments are expected to stabilize close to 1-2 percent per year.”

However, Municipal Analytics recommends that city council adopt only the first rate increase initially. “As preparations are made for subsequent budgets, revenues and expenditures should be re-evaluated and rates should once again be recalculated.”

Maple Street reconstruction

Three blocks of Maple Street from State to Hazel could get a complete makeover if all goes as planned.

City council approved payment of up to $80,000 to the Spicer Group, a Saginaw civil engineering firm, to develop plans to replace the water main, sanitary sewer, storm sewer, all existing services to those utilities, complete reconstruction of the road with the addition of concrete curb and gutter, hard surface driveways and sidewalk replacement.

Total cost for the project is expected to be $1.38 million.

Should all go well, actual work on the project could get underway as soon as January 2019 and be completed by August 2019.

Water main replacement

City council approved the first phase of a project to extend a water main from Michigan Avenue at Hazel to M-46 by way of Pine Street later this year.

The project’s scope would include replacement of the water main, fire hydrants, service leads, curb boxes and reconnections, according to Spicer Group, which is getting $26,000 for the design phase.

Spicer will likely get another $39,000 for the construction phase and estimates the grand total for the whole project will be $340,000.

“This project could be bid as early as late summer with a fall construction,” Spicer Group Project Manager Mark Norton said in a letter to Risdon.

The water pipe to be replaced is four inches in diameter and made of cast iron. There have been two breaks in it already this year.


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