(Posted Feb. 22, 2023)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
The first in a series of rate hikes for London sewer, water, and trash services goes into effect July 1.
London city council unanimously approved the increases at their Feb. 16 meeting. The city’s Board of Public Utilities (BPU) has proposed an estimated $18.5 million in sewer and water system repairs and upgrades. Revenues from the sewer and water rate increases will go to loan payments on those projects.
Currently, residents pay a base minimum rate of $1.50 per month for sewer services. A $5.99 per month increase will go into effect 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 will bring the base minimum monthly rate to $19.47 per month by 2025.
BPU also had proposed a 3 percent increase in sewer rates each year starting in 2026 for a continuing period of time to cover inflation and ongoing needs of the department. Council voted to amend this part of the proposal based, in part, on pushback from the public.
“The 3 percent seems to be a real sticking point with a lot of people that have talked with me about it,” said council member Rich Hays.
Council member Bryan Robinson suggested the legislation require a review every five years, starting in 2028, of the need for the 3 percent yearly increase. Council voted unanimously to make that change.
For water services, residents currently pay $17.12 per month for the first 2,000 gallons of water usage. Council approved an increase of 51 cents per month starting Jan. 1, 2023, which will bring the base rate to $17.63 per month.
Trash rates will go from $17.80 per month to $20.15 per month starting July 1, 2023.
BPU had proposed an ongoing 3 percent yearly increase for both water and trash services starting Jan. 1, 2024. As with the water rates, Robinson suggested the legislation for the water and trash service rates require an automatic review of the 3 percent yearly increase every five years starting in 2028. Council voted unanimously to make those changes.
Following the votes, Hays and council member John Stahl said the rate hikes and the infrastructure improvements those hikes are funding will help to set up the city for the future.
“Things are going to start coming. We just got to be ready for it,” Hays said.
Council member Joshua Peters commented, “I’m excited for the future, especially with the infrastructure. Excited to see what’s coming to London, how it’s growing. It’s going to be neat to see.”
Robinson thanked the BPU for the work they have done to create a plan for addressing infrastructure needs.
Council member Andy Hitt and council president Henry Comer thanked the public for voicing their concerns and suggestions at city council meetings. Comer said council could not have made the hard decisions without input from the community.
“We made some changes and adjustments by listening to some of the objections of the community,” Comer said.
Council member Greg Eades mentioned a letter the city received from a resident who opposed the utility rate hikes, saying she felt she would have to make a decision between paying her utility bills and voting for the income tax increase for additional funding for the fire and EMS department. The income tax increase for fire/EMS will appear on the May 2 primary election ballot.
“I really hope that people don’t feel that they have to make that decision, because we have a fire department. We need to have a fire department, and we know that the problems they have, have been years in the making, and they’re going to need help financially.”