(Posted Jan. 26, 2023)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
London’s Board of Public Utilities (BPU) is proposing a wide array of repairs and upgrades to the city’s sewer and water systems. All totaled, the price tag is an estimated $18.5 million. Rate hikes are proposed to cover loan payments on the projects.
On Jan. 19, city council held first readings on the proposed rate increases. They also heard from Steve Lelonek, a BPU member, and John Swartzbaugh, an engineer with Burgess & Niple, who outlined the proposed projects in detail.
Currently, residents pay a base minimum rate of $1.50 per month for sewer services. BPU is proposing a monthly increase of $5.99 starting July 1, 2023, followed by a second $5.99 increase starting Jan. 1, 2024, and a third increase of $5.99 starting Jan. 1, 2025. That would bring the base minimum rate to $19.47 per month by 2025. The board is proposing a 3 percent yearly rate increase starting in 2026.
As for water services, residents currently pay $17.12 per month for the first 2,000 gallons of water usage. On average, a household of two people uses roughly 2,000 gallons per month. BPU is proposing an increase of 51 cents per month starting on July 1, 2023, bringing the base rate to $17.63 per month. The board is proposing a 3 percent yearly increase starting in 2024.
Lelonek said he and his fellow BPU members, Steve Scaggs and Marcus Vest, don’t take the proposed rate increases lightly, but he said changes are necessary to fix the city’s infrastructure issues and upgrade systems to allow for future growth.
Henry Comer, council president, said, “I, for one, feel all of these rates are 100 percent needed for the city. We talk about the infrastructure of the city. We talk about the city growing and moving into the future and getting better. These are some of the things that have been put by the wayside and some of the reasons why we have some of the issues with the infrastructure in the city that we are currently experiencing.”
Proposed Sewer Projects
Of the $18.5 million dollars in proposed project costs, $14.1 million would go to sewer projects.
• East side trunk sewer–The existing trunk sewer that serves the Amherst subdivision area has capacity issues, causing problems during wet weather events. To provide relief, BPU proposes installing a new east side trunk sewer. The new line also would accommodate plans for a new housing development on land owned by MTB Corp. off Keny Boulevard near State Route 38. The plan calls for 800 to 900 residencies with a mixture of multi-family and single-family homes.
Moving from west to east, the new line would start to the north of Eagleton Plaza, run across U.S. Route 42 (Lafayette Street), through undeveloped land owned by MTB Corp., to the corner of Spring Valley Road and State Route 142 where it would connect to an existing main line. A new pump station on Spring Valley Road would direct flow to the Sharp Avenue pump station which leads directly to the city’s water treatment plant.
The estimated cost to install the new trunk sewer is $13.1 million.
• City-wide inflow and infiltration repairs–London has issues with rainwater getting into sanitary sewer systems that are not designed to carry the water away. Flooding is an issue in many parts of the city. BPU proposes the city pay for a comprehensive sewer system study to pinpoint issues, then make the repairs and upgrades to fix them. Projects would focus on manhole upgrades, new linings, and other repairs. The total estimated cost is $932,000, including $80,000 for the study.
• Miscellaneous sewer projects–Rick Duncan, London’s waste water superintendent, has identified a handful of smaller sewer projects: relining or replacing the line on South Walnut Street due to cracking; relining or replacing the line on East Lincoln Street and Riley Avenue due to root intrusion; relining or replacing the line next to School Street behind city hall due to root intrusion, access issues, and a deteriorated manhole; and making repairs to the line in the alley off of South Main Street.
The total estimated cost is $79,350.
Proposed Water Projects
With BPU’s plan, a total of $4.4 million would go to water service upgrades and repairs. Half of that amount would go toward getting the east water treatment plant up and running.
• East water treatment plant–The city has not been able to use its east water treatment plant, completed eight years ago, due to high ammonia levels in the water. Last fall, BPU and Burgess & Niple landed on a technology called breakpoint chlorination that they believe will fix the problem. The village of South Charleston has found success with the process.
To outfit the plant for this process, BPU is proposing installation of a 6,000-gallon chemical storage tank, exterior piping, and transfer piping and controls, along with upgrades to the chemical dosing system. The estimated cost would be $350,000. The board also proposes that a new production well be drilled. The estimated cost for the well is $1.85 million.
• North Main Street Water Line Replacement–The water line on North Main Street fails frequently. BPU is proposing replacing 3,700 feet of the line between Garfield Avenue and the Madison Bowling Lanes. The estimated cost is $1.27 million.
Last year, the county commissioners agreed to build a water line from the London Correctional Institution farm to connect to the city’s existing line just past the bowling alley. In emergencies, the county could provide the city with water and vice-versa. To make that work, the city’s old line needs to be replaced with a line that matches the pressure capacity of the county’s line.
• Upgrades to the West Water Treatment Plant–The city’s main treatment plant needs a new tank for water softening. Its existing tank, which is 20 years old, failed last summer and took weeks to fix. BPU proposes rehabbing the existing tank and installing a second tank. The redundancy would prevent a gap in services should one of the tanks fail. The estimated cost is $791,000.
The board also wants to replace the plant’s water filters. Filters typically last 15 years. The plant’s filters were last replaced in 2005. The estimated cost is $113,500.
The proposed sewer and water rate increases will be up for a second reading at city council’s Feb. 2 meeting set for 7 p.m. in council chambers at city hall, 20 S. Walnut St.
A link to a PowerPoint presentation on the proposed sewer and water projects can be found on the city’s website at Board of Public Utilities Projects Proposal.