LIMA — A plan to adjust sewer rates for customers tied into the city of Lima’s system is headed to Lima City Council after members of City Council’s Utilities Committee recommended the plan on Monday.
Sewer rates will be adjusted over the course of the next nine years to help pay for more than $150 million worth of projects over 28 years mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Utilities Director Gary Sheely said.
For customers outside the city, it will mean a drop in rates to a flat $50 rate. Customers inside the city will gradually be adjusted upward reaching the $50 flat rate within the next nine years, Sheely said. The adjustment will also keep the city competitive with the rate paid by customers on the county system.
“If the EPA comes to us it’s called mandates and they’re going to tell you what to do and they don’t care what it costs,” said 2nd Ward Councilor Sam McLean, who chairs the committee. “With us going in with this type of agreement we have stop-gaps built in we can slow down the process to meet our funding or stop the process and re-evaluate. If we don’t have some growth in our city with our businesses and people moving into the city limits this process will slow down in eight to nine years.”
Sheely said the projects represent the largest capital outlay for the city over the coming years and the burden of paying for the projects rests solely with the city. Adjusting rates to ensure sewer customers outside the city remain on the city’s system is essential for making the EPA mandates affordable for the city, he said.
“What we have is a process that says on our good faith we said we can do this. If things change in the community, if we get poorer, we lose industry, we lose revenue all that stuff then it has to come to bear on when we have to do something,” Sheely said. “We’re prepared to argue with the agency we’ll shove it out there 60 years. We’ll shove it out there 80 years, our program may take 100 years to get done. We’re committed to meet our environmental obligations with the Clean Water Act but there has to be a consideration about what people can afford to do.”