(Posted Feb. 2, 2023)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
An 8.7 percent increase is being applied to Mount Sterling residents’ water and sewer bills this year.
This follows legislation that was set in 2021 and became effective in 2022. The legislation calls for an automatic 5 percent increase to water and sewer fees each year unless the cost of living is higher than 5 percent, in which case the increase matches the cost of living increase.
Tom Byrne, village administrator, announced the rate hike at the Jan. 30 council meeting, saying residents would see the increase starting with this month’s bills.
“This means the average (monthly) bill will go up $2.97. All increases are based on usage only,” he said.
Council member Becky Martin noted the increase does not apply to the debt service fee which is a fixed rate.
Byrne reported the village plans to apply for an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant to purchase a listening device to pinpoint water line leaks.
“This device would give us a better idea of where we’ve got to dig, so we’re not digging up the entire street to find one little break,” he said.
The EPA grant would cover costs up to $10,000. The value of the device Mount Sterling seeks is $6,300. The grant does not require matching funds from the village, but it is a competitive grant, so funding is not guaranteed.
“This is important equipment because it helps with one of the village’s EPA violations–water loss,” said Andy Drake, council president pro tem. “We’re trying to get that under control. We started with fire hydrants, then leaky valves, then pipes that are leaking actively underground.”
Currently, the village calls the Ohio Rural Water Association for help with leak detection. The village pays a small yearly fee to be a member of the association which provides the service at no charge.
With its own leak detection equipment, the village could tend to leak issues immediately, Byrne said, rather than waiting for an appointment with the association.
Council approved the following council committee assignments for 2023:
• Finance–Andy Drake (chair), Joyce Phillips, and David Timmons;
• Liaison to the Pleasant Township trustees–Timmons (chair);
• Liaison to the Tri County Joint Fire District–Bill Tilley (chair);
• Liaison to the Sterling Joint Ambulance District–Rob Longcoy;
• Safety–Tilley (chair), Longcoy, and Timmons;
• Water/wastewater–Phillips (chair), Drake, and Tilley;
• Streets–Longcoy (chair), Timmons, and Becky Martin;
• Tree City USA–Martin (chair);
• Parks and recreation–Martin (chair), Tilley, and Longcoy;
• Planning–Drake (chair);
• Zoning–Phillips (chair); and
• Records retention–Drake (chair).
Council will address possible changes in the structure of the nuisance and abatement committee. Phillips is set to serve as chair. Council needs to decide how many other people will serve on the committee and, of those, how many will be council members and how many will be residents.
Council’s next regular meeting will take place at 7 p.m. Feb. 13 in council chambers at town hall.