The city of Springfield might increase sewer and stormwater utility rates to finance about $80 million in federally-mandated projects designed to cut down on raw sewage overflows into local waterways.
The monthly utility bill for water, sewer and stormwater for a typical residence will increase from $39.92 to $42.67 per month next year. The typical monthly bill will increase to $44.58 in 2017 and $46.64 in 2018.
City commissioners discussed the increase at a work session Tuesday and will vote on it at the Dec. 22 meeting.
“This isn’t something the city of Springfield chose to do,” said City Commissioner Karen Duncan. “This is something we were mandated to do, and we’re trying to comply with all of the mandates that our being brought to us in the most economically efficient way as well as the most environmentally efficient way that we can do.”
The debt for the stormwater and sewer funds is expected to increase from $5.5 million next year to $7.8 million in 2020.
“No matter how you slice it, this is a large chunk of money that we have to pay back,” said Springfield Finance Director Mark Beckdahl.
Springfield ranked in the top-10 lowest for water and sewer utility rates this year, according to the annual Oakwood Water and Sewer Rate Survey released in March. With the increase, Springfield still has one of the most affordable utility rates in the region.
“We try to keep our rates as affordable as possible,” Beckdahl said.
The sewer rate is expected to increase 7 percent each of the next three years. The stormwater rate is increasing about .95 cents per Equivalent Stormwater Unit. One ESU is about 1,898 square feet of impervious area, which typically includes a home, garage, driveway or a shed, Beckdahl said.
An average residence has about one ESU, and a typical bill will increase from about $15.60 per year to about $27 per year.
The city will also begin using LIDAR, a remote sensing technology that measures distance using lasers, to accurately measure the amount of ESUs on certain properties — meaning some properties could be charged higher fees.
“We’ll have a more accurate estimate of how much they’re contributing to the problem,” said Mayor Warren Copeland. “We can’t tell people what’s going to happen; it depends on their situation.”
The city is expected to spend about $80 million on sewer projects mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as part of its combined sewer overflow program, designed to keep wastewater from flowing into local streams and waterways, such as the Mad River.
The $60 million high-rate treatment clarifier — the single most expensive item ever approved by city commissioners — began construction in 2012 and was completed last year. The plant now has the capacity to treat up to 140 million gallons of sewage per day.
The $20 million Erie Express Sewer — which will send sewage from the area of Bechtle Avenue and Ohio 41 straight to the Wastewater Treatment Plant on Dayton Avenue — is expected to begin construction in August and could be completed by September of 2018.
Residents saw 4 percent increases in sewer rates three times from 2012 to 2014, with the last increase on Jan. 1, 2014, to pay for the Erie Express and treatment plant projects.
By the numbers
7: Percentage increase in sewer rates over each of the next three years.
$80 million: Amount of money the city has spent on federally-mandated sewer projects since 2012.
$240 million: Estimated total cost of all projects required to cut down raw sewage overflows into local waterways.
Staying with the story
The Springfield News-Sun has written extensively on the city’s Combined Sewer Overflow long-term control plan for the past several years, including stories digging into the costs and the amount of sewage released into local waterways.