Arlington City Council delays action on sewer rate increase

City of Arlington Public Works Director Jim Kelly addresses the City Council on Monday, April 5. The Council unanimously approved tabling an ordinance that would increase residents’ sewer rates until May 17. - Adam Rudnick
City of Arlington Public Works Director Jim Kelly addresses the City Council on Monday, April 5. The Council unanimously approved tabling an ordinance that would increase residents’ sewer rates until May 17.
— image credit: Adam Rudnick

ARLINGTON — Sewer rates will remain the same in Arlington - for now.

On Monday, April 5, the City Council unanimously opted to table the city's proposed sewer rate increase until next month, giving Council members two work sessions and two official meetings before it could take action May 17.

No rationale was given for the decision during the Council meeting, but city of Arlington Public Works Director Jim Kelly said after the meeting that he recommended the delay to give tax payers a better chance to educate themselves of the potential increase.

"We want the people to know what they're paying for," Kelly said.

Monday marked the third consecutive City Council meeting that contained a public hearing for residents to voice their concerns over any sewer rate increase.

According to the proposed draft ordinance in its current form, the city would charge residents an additional $5.35 for monthly sewer access within the city limits, with that amount slated to continue to go up during the next few years.

Customers currently pay $52.10 per month which includes taxes.

The increase will raise sewer rates to $57.45 this year, $62.80 in 2011, $68.15 in 2012 and $73.50 in 2013.

City Public Works Director Jim Kelly has said that the increases are necessary for the city to help pay for state and federally mandated capacity and treatment technology upgrades to its wastewater treatment plant.

The new plant is under construction.

The city has already increased its sewer connection fees from $5,600 to $8,400 for new construction to help pay for the $42 million plant. Kelly has said that now current customers must pay their fair, proportionate share through the rate increases.

Residents have complained during two public hearings in March that the new sewer rates would put a strain on their budgets. Others have suggested that the city look at restructuring their utility rates.

Under the current rate system, the city charges residential customers based on a flat rate, not by how much they use the sewer system.

Kelly said Monday that the city is planning to review its comprehensive utility rate ordinance in the future, which could determine how Arlington residents are billed for their sewer service.

Kelly said in his sewer rate presentations that the city will soon begin a rate analysis to see if restructuring its rates from a flat rate to a usage rate would be possible.

Approximately 10 community members or property owners attended and spoke during the City Council's first public hearing on the rate increase March 1. Seven more individuals addressed the Council at the March 15 hearing.

That second public hearing was continued on Monday night, but only one resident addressed the Council. Arlington resident Tom Berry asked the Council how much the city and the state charge for taxes on sewer rates, and was told that it was approximately 7 percent.

"That's all I want to know," Berry said.

Although the Council did not approve changing the city's sewer rates, city finance director Jim Chase told Council members that residents should expect to start receiving monthly sewer bills on a monthly basis starting in June, compared to a bi-monthly statement.

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