October 14, 2019

West Branch sewer rates slated to increase once again

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WEST BRANCH — After five months without an increase of sewer rates, city residents may be seeing a 25-cent jump as early as June 2 if a new ordinance is adopted at the next council meeting May 18.

The reason for the increase is to support the 2009-10 fiscal year budget for the sewer fund due to some needed equipment replacements on the current wastewater treatment plant.

“The equipment in the current plant needs to be replaced because it’s old and worn out,” City Manager Tom Youatt said. “We aren’t able to run the plant as efficiently as we need to, and it’s breaking down, and we need to replace it.”

While a new wastewater treatment plant project is in the works, the current plant has to be utilized until the new facility is constructed and in working order. To help the current plant work more efficiently until it’s replaced, a new biological oxygen demand incubator needs to be installed, which is budgeted for $5,700. Other equipment that needs to be installed is an estimated $18,000 new grid collector chain, which drives the separator for the raw sewage going into the plant, and ultraviolet disinfection lamps, which are estimated to cost $4,000.

Once the city has a new wastewater treatment plant, it is unknown if the sewer rates will remain at the increased cost or if the city will have to change them again.

“Certainly, our budget will be much easier to manage with a new plant to operate. It will be much more efficient, and we are hopeful some of our energy costs and chemical costs will be decreased,” Youatt said. “But as far as whether we can decrease or simply hold the rates for a period of time … there are other costs that will continue to increase, and we’ll just have to deal with those as they come up.”

The last sewer rate increase for the city was in December 2008, which brought the cost of $4.65 per 1,000 gallons to the present $5.07 per 1,000 gallons. With the current proposed increase, the rates will be $5.32.

“Whenever there is a rate increase, we have to make sure it’s justified,” Youatt said. “The overall problem is that we’re trying to keep this old plant running until we can start construction and bring into operation the new plant.”

A public hearing will be held at the next city council meeting on May 18, after which the council can make a decision on whether to raise the rates. The meeting will be at 7 p.m., at City Hall.

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