Starting in June, sewer bills in and around Greenwood will go up by about 9 percent.
The increase is the first of two sewer fee increases the Greenwood City Council approved Monday to pay for system repairs, such as replacing or fixing pipes and manholes across the city. The next rate hike will be another 9 percent increase in January. The two increases together will cost residents an average of about $5 per month.
The city needs the added money to make payments on $8 million in sewer repair projects, which the state is requiring because of a sewer overflow in 2011 that killed fish in Honey Creek.
The increase is the second one residents have had to pay in the past two years. In 2012, the city council approved two 10 percent increases in the fees, which also went into effect several months apart.
Resident Stephen Heider told the council it was clear that the previous increases, which were supposed to cover the sewer utility’s costs, were clearly a miscalculation.
The previous increase didn’t take into consideration the projects the state would require after the 2011 incident, council member Linda Gibson said.
After that overflow, the city was required to make changes to prevent others from happening.
By 2018, the city has to show the Indiana Department of Environmental Management that it has gone 12 consecutive months without a sewer overflow, city attorney Krista Taggart said.
Currently, the city has three to four overflows per week, with three to four major overflows per year, sanitation superintendent Keith Meier said.
“Like I said, don’t swim in a creek,” city council member Brent Corey said.
Here is a look at sewer fee increases:
Sewer fix details
Here is a look at how the money from a Greenwood sewer fee hike will be used:
Cost of projects the city wants to complete in the next decade
Goal for the number of sewer overflows over a 12-month period the city must report to the state by 2018
3 to 4
Number of overflows the city currently has per week
If the city doesn’t follow a repair timeline set by the state, including beginning construction on sewer infrastructure projects this year, then the city will be forced to pay fines of $1,000 per overflow, Taggart said.
The city is considering $50 million in projects over the next decade. The list includes replacing and fixing sewer pipes, especially in the oldest part of the city, that have deteriorated, allowing rainwater to get into the system and causing it to overflow.
Residents don’t have a choice and have to accept what the city charges for sewer service no matter what, which is a problem, council member Ezra Hill said.
“I don’t know what else we can do. I feel trapped. I hate it,” city council member Mike Campbell.
The city council approved the rate increases with a 7-2 vote. Council members Ron Bates and Hill voted no. Bates voted against the fee increases because residents with limited incomes weren’t considered, and he’d been told the rates would go up in July, not June. He had told about 20 residents they would see rate increases in July, but he found out later that information was incorrect, he said.