Richmond bills to rise 13.75% in 2023

A typical Richmond Sanitary District residential customer will pay more than an additional $70 next year. By the 2025 end of the three-phase rate increase, the annual cost will be more than $140 higher than 2022.

Local officials say the changes are necessary to pay for operations and reduce spilling of human waste into a local waterway.

Richmond Common Council approved 7-1 general wastewater rate increases spread across 2023, 2024 and 2025 that total 27.14%. Larry Parker voted against the ordinance, which received no public comment during the Dec. 5 meeting.

The $49.41 monthly bill a residential customer using 4,000 gallons a month will pay in 2023 is $5.97 per month more than the 2022 rate. That’s a 13.75% increase from 2022 and will be followed by 5.75% increases for 2024 and 2025. The 2023 increase is $71.64 for the year, with the total annual increase climbing to $141.48 during 2025 for a 4,000-gallon-a-month residential customer.

“Thirteen-and-three-quarters percent is a tremendous amount to ask people to pay,” Parker said after asking multiple questions about the sanitary district’s cash reserves. “This is very difficult for most people to handle, this type of rate increases.”

The sanitary district requires more funding to cover its operating costs, general capital projects and long-term-control projects while maintaining sufficient cash reserves that cover four to six months of operating costs, according to a presentation by Pat Smoker, the sanitary district’s director.

Upcoming projects include replacing the Short Creek and Hayes lift stations for about $10 million and a $37 million capacity expansion that will enable the treatment plant to treat extra wastewater gallons.

The sanitary district is also more than halfway through a 20-year set of federally mandated projects that significantly reduce sewage spills into the Whitewater River during rains. The sanitary district must pay existing and future bond debt on those projects, which must be completed by 2030.

“This is something we have to do,” council member Ron Oler said. “We have to stop dumping human waste into the river people use for pleasure.”

Better utilizing the river is a city priority. Plans have begun that will develop the Whitewater Valley Gorge Park that extends along the river from Test Road to Waterfall Road. Recreational ideas include boating on the river.

Olersaid about 10 rate scenarios were considered and the larger initial increase actually saves residential customers money long-term. The sanitary district will be able to pay down debt and have lower increases in succeeding years. A smaller initial increase would have required high additional rate increases.

“If you want to be in your house five or 10 years, you’re better off paying more next year, because in the long run, the grand total will be much smaller,” Oler said.

The sanitary district implemented a 35% rate increase across 2018, 2019 and 2020, but rates have remained steady the past two years. In the Dec. 5 presentation, the district showed its expected rate growth through 2033.

The plan includes 3.5% increases in 2026 and 2027, 3% increases the following four years and 2% increases in 2032 and 2033.

By that time, a residential customer paying $43.44 for 4,000 gallons during a month this year would pay $69.30 per month for the same usage in 2033, a total 59.53% increase from 2022.

The monthly general wastewater rate is comprised of a base rate according to meter size and a treatment rate per 1,000 gallons. This year, residential and commercial customers with five-eighths or three-quarters-inch water meters pay a $22.44 base rate plus a $5.25 treatment rate per 1,000 gallons.

Those rates will increase to $25.53 and $5.97 in 2023, to $27.00 and $6.31 in 2024 and to $28.55 and $6.67 in 2025. Customers with larger water meters pay higher base rates that also will increase each of the next three years.

Midwest Industrial Park

Prior to its discussion about the sanitary rates, the council unanimously passed an ordinance that would annex about 161 acres of land for the Midwest Industrial Park.

The city and Wayne County government each purchased land from Toschlog Family Farms in two parcels totaling 326 acres. The county sold its land to the city for $1 plus recording fees. The city owning all of the land simplifies the Economic Development Corporation of Wayne County’s efforts to attract developers.

Council first unanimously approved a resolution creating a fiscal plan and policy for services for the land. There are no expected financial burdens for the city related to that land, and the vacant land has little impact on police or fire services.

If no appeal to the annexation ordinance is received within 30 days, the annexation will be filed with the county recorder’s office. It’s expected to take effect Jan. 5.

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Mike Emery is a reporter and layout editor for the Western Wayne News.