By Amanda Ensinger
Water and sewer bills in Prairie Township will increase in 2021. The Prairie Township trustees recently announced they were informed that Franklin County will be increasing its water and sewer rates.
The rates will increase by 2 percent for water service and by 3 percent for sewer service, according to Franklin County Department of Sanitary Engineers Director Stephen Renner.
“We have a unified rate structure, so all service areas will be seeing this increase,” Renner said. “We purchase our water and sewer from Columbus and Columbus is increasing these rates, which is the reason for the increase.”
Renner said the county is simply passing along the rate increase they are receiving from Columbus to their customers.
However, this increase is causing major concern for Prairie Township residents who already say they pay some of the highest rates in the county. According to Prairie Township trustee Stephen Kennedy, residents pay more than double what neighboring communities pay that have city of Columbus water.
“A family of four in the township pays anywhere between $500 to $800 a quarter for water and sewer service,” he said. “If someone in the township uses no water, they would still pay around $110 in just connection fees. If we had Columbus service, this fee would only be around $30.”
Renner said there are a variety of reasons why Franklin County’s water and sewer service are more expensive than Columbus.
“There are 26 noncontiguous service areas in the county that Franklin County provides water for,” Renner said. “We have an aging system and a fleet of service trucks that have to service these noncontiguous areas on any given day, these all contribute to these costs.”
However, Renner said they know they need to do something to fix this issue.
“We agree, these rates are unsustainable and we have been taking serious steps to a solution,” he said. “In May 2018, the board of commissioners approved a resolution that allowed our department to work with the city of Columbus to select an engineering firm to perform a comprehensive assessment of all our water and sewer assets.”
Renner said the assessment took about a year to complete and the goal was to meet with the city in the spring of 2020 to begin talks of having Columbus take over Franklin County’s water and sewer systems.
“Then, we were all horribly impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic,” he said. “However, we did have our first meeting with the representatives within the city last week on Dec. 17.”
Renner said during the meeting the city said, while they are still willing to take over the Franklin County systems, they would only accept homes already directly connected to them.
While no timetable has been determined, Renner said they already have another meeting with the city planned in January and are making progress.
Kennedy said in the meantime residents will have to get used to rate increases until an agreement is reached between the city and county.
“We have reached an agreement with the city and done everything we need to do; we just need the county to do their part,” Kennedy said. “It is their system, so until they reach an agreement with Columbus, there isn’t much we can do. These rates increases happen every year, so until an agreement is reached, residents should anticipate yearly rate increases.”
The county does offer financial assistance for water and sewer bills for those in need.
For more information on financial assistance options, visit cleanwater.franklincountyohio.gov/SENG-website/media/documents/Low-Income-Water-Sewer-Discount-Program-Phamplet.pdf.