Sewer Rates To Increase
By Kimberly Foley. CREATED Oct 18, 2013
Omaha, NE - It's something customers don't have to worry about right now, but sewer use fees across the metro could double in years to come.
It's all because of the sewer separation project going on right now in Omaha.
It's a utility that started around $15 a month.
"If we keep on going the way we are going, it could be as high as $60, $65, $70 a month," said Mayor Jean Stothert on Thursday.
An increase in sewer fees could be coming to homeowners, renters and businesses.
"I don't agree with it," said Omaha resident Barb Kirkpatrick. "I think everything is high enough as it is. Being a single mom of two, I don't need my budget any tighter."
The federal government is forcing about 700 cities to upgrade their sewer networks.
In Omaha, it's expected to cost $2 billion, and the feds aren't footing the bill.
"I feel, as though, any sort of federal mandate, should have some sort of funding behind it," said Omaha resident Kyle Vanbrunt.
State Senator Heath Mello will introduce a bill next session that would help the city, and in turn help customers, pay for the project.
The state already collects a sales tax on sewer fees. Mello's bill would direct that money to Omaha.
A portion of the money would be kept in a fund that smaller communities can dip into when they have to fund similar projects.
"Every bit counts," said Stothert. "If we have to start providing relief for citizens with lower income, this is an area we could look."
Stothert told said the current sewer rates will expire in Dec. of 2014.
The city recently had a study done that showed the new rate proposal Stothert is looking at is affordable for customers, but is not sustainable. That means when it expires in 2018, rates would have to go up.
"We have to look at ways, anyway we can, to help reduce that burden of the sewer separation costs to our families and to our businesses," said Stothert.
In 2013, the city paid $168 million for the project.
If Mello's bill passes, it would give between $4-6 million a year to the city.