Marengo proposes sewer rate
January 06, 2010
As the economy struggles along, many municipalities are having to make difficult decisions in an effort to stay afloat, pay the bills and keep utilities operating. Marengo is no exception.
Last week, officials announced that the town is considering raising the sewer rates residents pay, which have remained the same for almost the last 12 years.
"Our sewer account has been operating hand to mouth for a while now," Tony Jones, town board president, said. "If we were to have a major breakdown or have to deal with major maintenance problems, we'd be in trouble."
The town's last sewer rate increase was in June 1998, when the base rate was set at $12.05 a month.
"That rate has sustained us for a lot of years," Jones added. "But we have an old sewer system and old systems tend to have problems; pumps go out and updates are needed. Our town supervisor does a great job. When our pumps go out, he has them rebuilt instead of buying new ones. It costs about half as much that way. And he does most of our electrical work. We make every effort to keep costs down."
As announced last week, the town plans a rate increase of 49.8 percent.
"That sounds like a large increase," Jones said, "but the present base rate of $12.05 a month will only increase to $18.05 a month, an increase of $6. That is for those with 5/8-inch water meters, and all residents have that. Our largest meters are 2-inch meters, and there are only five of those, including the school, Circle A, which also has a (laundry), and some apartments. Those will see an increase of $51.31 in their rates, which will put them at $103.03 a month. But it's all based on the same percentage. And even most businesses in town are on 5/8-inch meters."
Jones said the new rate will still leave Marengo residents paying less than other towns in the county. The base rate for Milltown is $24.30 a month. English residents pay a base rate of $21.73, and Leavenworth's base rate is $34.65.
But some residents are not happy about the increase.
"This will hurt people who are on fixed incomes," Gary Robinson said. "They shoved through the trash ordinance first. That's $12.50 a month. And now this sewer rate increase will put a lot of pressure on them. It was announced that there would be no increase in Social Security this year, so where is this money going to come from? This will be two increases in expenses in three months time. It's a bitter pill to swallow."
The town has scheduled a public hearing on the issue for Monday at 7:30 p.m. at Marengo Elementary School. If adopted, the rates will go into effect Feb. 1 and will show up on the sewer bills on March 1.
"We've done everything we can to keep expenses down," Jones said. "And we're looking at a new bag system to get rid of the sludge.
"We truck out the sludge now, but a new system, already in use in Paoli and Springs Valley, uses large bags that hold 30,000 pounds of sludge. The bags are porous to allow liquids to escape, leaving only sludge, which can then be hauled away to a landfill. It's just something we're considering in an effort to keep our costs down."