October 22, 2014

Elyria
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Elyria water rates could increase by 28 percent

ELYRIA — City residents will fork over on average an extra $4.57 each month starting in January if City Council votes to accept utility rate increases as recommended Thursday.

The increase is based on the average monthly bill for a typical household that uses 800 cubic feet of water and will be effective at the beginning of the year. That’s $3.64 for water and 93 cents for sewer. Broken down, the dollar amounts equate to a 28 percent increase in the monthly water bill and a 2.75 percent increase in the monthly sewer bill.

While the percentage of the increase is the same, the monetary cost of the increase will vary based on water consumption.

Still, Mayor Bill Grace understands that residents who are battling tough times in the current economy may not be ready for any kind of increase.

MORE INFO

City residents can view the complete sewer fund and water fund review at www.cityofelyria.org.

City Council will discuss the matter further with a possible vote to follow at 6 p.m. Monday in City Council Chambers.

“I understand that these are not the kind of improvements you would put on a brochure saying, ‘Hey, come to Elyria. We have high-quality water lines,’ ” he said. “That is something our residents and businesses have come to expect from their city services. As stewards to a system our ancestors designed, we have done a good job at maintaining things. But it’s time to improve what they started.”

Grace said the sizable jump is needed because the city’s water fund is so low it would face a $777,000 deficit by the end of 2009 without a rate increase.

City Council didn’t vote on the matter Thursday. Instead, members elected to take home information-packed data charts and revisit the matter next week.

Each listened intently at Thursday’s meeting as the focus stayed on the city’s 20-year plan to improve the water distribution system for $154 million and the wastewater or sewer system for another $105 million.

Attempting to improve either system without rate increases would put both the water and sewer fund seriously in the red within a few years — long before the bulk of either project is completed, said Chris LaGross, an engineering consultant with CT Consultants of Willoughby.

“There are just not sufficient funds in your systems to support the level of improvement needed,” she said. “The sooner you can get these increases in place, the sooner you can see the rollover effect of those increases resulting in less of an increase over the entire 20-year period.”

The improvements to the water system include $3.9 million to improve the water distribution system, $70 million to replace the 4-inch and 6-inch water mains, $26.33 million to improve the water treatment plant, another $20.2 million to replace a water transmission main, $27.7 million to replace other water mains and $5.4 million to improve the service pumps.

On the sewer side, improvements to the pump stations, storage units, sewer overflows and the wastewater pollution control plant are being looked at for a combined $105 million.

Such sweeping improvements are needed to keep the century-old water system, which hasn’t seen a major improvement in 40 years, working. In addition, the city is nearing a point where it must repair the sewer system to keep sewage out of the Black River in accordance with U.S. EPA and Ohio EPA standards.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.