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Water, sewer rates increase in Burton
Water, sewer rates increase in Burton
By JOSEPH KOZIOL JR.
Burton Village officials are seeking to ease residents' burden of paying for a $6 million to $7 million waste-water treatment plant.
Village Council and members of the village's board of public affairs met jointly last week to discuss funding options for the new treatment plant, which could go online by 2011.
Part of that funding mix will be increases in residents' water and sewer rates, said Kenneth Kleve, chairman of the board of public affairs.
Last week, the board and council took steps to obtain some of the money with rate increases.
The board unanimously increased water rates. The minimum charge was raised from $15.25 to $20 per quarter for use of up to 5,000 gallons. The rate for each 1,000 gallons above that was increased from $3.17 to $3.62.
Council also hiked sewer rates by less than 1 percent last week.
Board member Curt Johnson said residents will likely see more increases. "These rates are just the beginning," he said.
Mr. Kleve said how much residents pay would depend on how much outside funding the village could receive for the treatment-plant project. He said the village is "still in line" to get $5 million to $6 million from the state for the project. Another $500,000 to $600,000 has been earmarked by Geauga County for the project.
If the project costs around $6 million, Mr. Kleve said, the village would begin paying on a loan for that amount in 2011. That would leave the village with an approximately $300,000 annual payment for 20 years.
Mr. Kleve suggested that the village consider setting up a separate account for the project and begin putting away money now to build up a "war chest." He said the board has a carryover of $325,000 and would like to save $200,000 for a war chest used exclusively for the project. Another $100,000 could possibly come from this year's carryover, he said. He said the hope is that the village could save $1 million toward the project.
In addition to saving from its carryover, Mr. Kleve said, the village should consider shifting money collected from cellular-tower rentals and admissions tax to apply toward the project.
Lynn Rose, village street foreman, said the money from admission taxes has been used for sidewalk and street repairs, and shifting the money would cause those repairs to fall further behind.
Mr. Kleve said council and the board should avoid getting into turf wars over the money. He said the issue is not a council issue or a board of public affairs issues but one that affects the whole village. "Without water and sewer, we don't have a village anymore," he said.
Mr. Kleve said, regardless of how much the village saves or receives, it will be necessary to raise rates for water and sewer. "No matter what we do, we're going to have to raise rates."
He said the village will consider raising rates significantly for those outside the village who receive either water or sewer services. He said a 20 percent to 25 percent rate hike may be necessary.
Councilman Gerald Rouge said the increase for outside properties may affect about 13 homeowners, the Geauga branch of Kent State University and possibly the Burton Fire Department. He said those property owners could avoid higher rates than those in the village if they agree to annexation.
Mayor Thomas Blair Sr. said the biggest problem and reason for the need for a bigger treatment plant is the inflow and infiltration occurring within the system.
Mr. Kleve said the entire system has been reviewed, and it's believed that the laterals, the lines running from individual homes to the city's lines, is where the problems lie. He said some homeowners' lines may be connected to gutters or sump pumps. He said the increases in flow in the city's system appear to occur during heavy rains.
Village Engineer Charles "Chip" Hess said attempting to correct every lateral in the village may be more costly than building the bigger plant.
Village Fiscal Officer Christopher Paquette said he is reviewing the possible use of federal funds to help offset costs.
Mr. Hess said every possible avenue for funding has been discussed.
Mr. Kleve said every dollar the village can get will be helpful.
Mr. Blair said the project may be the village's biggest undertaking ever.
Mr. Kleve said the need is coming at a time when the economy is taking a toll on village residents. The board has had its biggest list of delinquencies, he said. "Everyone is hurting."
The solution may be as simple as getting more young families to move into the village, he said. Children are the biggest users of water, he said. "If we had all the kids who come to my house for Halloween, we'd be fine." However, Mr. Kleve said, many of the children come from outside the village for Halloween.
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