Bexley raises rates on water, sewer, trash service

Bexley needs to raise its water and sewer rates slightly above what Columbus is charging the city to maintain its aging infrastructure, Service Director Dorothy Pritchard explained Nov. 27 before City Council approved the increases.

Columbus is raising its rate for water service by 18 percent and for sewer service by 10 percent.

Bexley followed suit, and now the average bill will jump from $240 to $257 per quarter, based on use of 3,000 cubic feet of water, beginning Jan 1.

The city is responsible for its own maintenance, Pritchard said, adding "the system is old, and there have been a lot of problems" with sewer back-ups and leaking pipes.

Bexley is spending between $60,000 and $80,000 a year to improve its water system and $180,000 to upgrade the sewer lines.

Since a larger storm sewer line was installed under Main Street two years ago, there have been no sewer back-ups into basements that were caused by the city’s lines, Pritchard said.

"We need to continue with the improvement program," she urged.

"You don’t see it, but it’s a great improvement," Council President Mark Masser agreed.

Bexley and other suburbs can expect further rate increases from Columbus in the coming years, as it constructs a water reservoir and complies with an order from the EPA to upgrade its waste water treatment facilities.

Projected increases for 2009 are 17 percent for water and 6 percent for sewer service, although Pritchard cautioned that those estimates are likely to change.

Columbus is fighting the EPA order that mandates improvements to be completed within 20 years, and Bexley is also part of that battle.

Council approved a payment of $52,721 to the law firm of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease, for services related to the EPA order.

City Attorney James Gross, a member of the firm, defended the charge, noting that having to comply with the order could cost Bexley well into seven figures. And the hourly charge of $250 an hour is $100 less than the usual fee, he said.

Council also voted to increases charges for trash pick-up for 2008. Bills will increase to $242 a year, from $220, and qualifying seniors, who now pay $150, will see a bill of $161.

The rate hike is the result of an increase in the contract with Rumpke, and is the first increase since 2002, according to Pritchard.

Stairwell stumble

The cost of replacing a stairwell at the rear of city hall is going up, and council members want to know they’re not pouring money down a hole in the ground.

Council approved an additional $14,000 appropriation for the project previously budgeted at $45,400.

David Koch, an engineer with EMH&T, explained that the cost overruns resulted from needing to replace handrails and guardrails around the stairwell, and unstable soil and other site conditions that weren’t discovered until crews starting digging.

The project had also been underfunded by about $1,500, Koch said.

Even with the new cost of $59,400, that figure is still well below the highest bid of $85,000, Pritchard pointed out.

No matter what contract had been accepted, she added, the city would have run into the same problems.

The $5,000 cost for the new rails came about when administrators realized that the project was subject to state codes, which required the purchase.

And because the stairwell is being redesigned, the old rails would have to have been refabricated, explained David Long, director of building services.

Mayor David Madison defended his department heads, maintaining that they ran into problems that could have not been foreseen.

In the final analysis, council did not have much choice about additional funding for the ongoing project.

"Will we get our parking lot back without the $14,000?" Councilman Matt Lampke, the finance committee chairman, asked.

"The answer is, no," Madison answered.

Council also voted to spend $12,000, from water and sewer professional consulting funds, for drawings and cost estimates for the relocation of the service department complex on the city hall site.

The work will be completed by WSA Studio. City officials have considered several options for moving the garage and offices to make way for a new police station, without settling on one solution.

Possibilities have included property outside of the city limits, as well as lots on Sheridan Avenue and Delmar Drive.

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