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Sewer rate hike gets initial OK

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Sewer fees in Greenwood are a step closer to increasing.

The city council approved two 9 percent rate increases, which if given final approval in May, would take effect in June and in January. That would be an average $5 per month total increase for a residential customer.

Greenwood is raising the rates to pay for repairs to the city sewer system, which the Indiana Department of Environmental Management is requiring. A sewer overflow in 2012 killed fish in Honey Creek, and the city will be fined if it doesn’t fix or replace leaky sections of pipe. Disintegrating sewer pipes allow rainwater to get into the system, which then overflows.

The proposed increase would pay loan payments on more than $8 million in sewer infrastructure projects. Increasing rates, rather than having another city board fund projects will allow the city to make repairs now and afford to maintain the pipes in later years, controller Adam Stone said.

The city council gave the rate increases a first approval with a 6-2 vote. Council members Ron Bates and Ezra Hill voted no.

Bates voted no because he requested and didn’t receive documents showing that the state was requiring capital improvements to the sewer system soon, he said. The increases are also taking effect too close together, and could financially strain residents on fixed incomes, he said.

Low-income residents in Hill’s district were his primary reason for voting no, and he wants to know if the city can be compliant with the state rules with smaller fee increases, Hill said. Also, replacing sewer pipes and reducing maintenance problems should decrease the sewer utility’s regular repair costs, and he’d like customers to benefit from the savings, he said.

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