MOUNT VERNON - City government officials on the city's utilities commission - consisting of Council member Tammy Woods, community members Elizabeth Doolittle and Keith Burley, City Engineer Brian Ball, Director of Public Utilities Mathias Orndorf, and Safety-service Director Rick Dzik - met on Jan. 5 for their regularly scheduled commission meeting. One of the main topics was to discuss the next steps on the proposed increase in wastewater rates.
After receiving feedback from the public and council members, the commission utilized this meeting to identify what actions should be taken on the legislation prior to the Jan. 25 council meeting.
After much discussion, the utilities commission recommended that legislation be amended to remove the section stating there will be an ongoing 10% increase in the wastewater rates after the three years of 15% increases. Removing the annual 10% increase will ensure that the rates can be reviewed by council and set as necessary for the department's sustainability after the three years of 15% increases.
The commission also recommended an amendment to adjust the initiation date to be adjusted to March 1, 2021. Adjusting the initiation date to March 1 will ensure that the public can be informed by the City of Mount Vernon about the rate increase over the months of February and March if the legislation is passed by council. The proposed changes would result in a $0.74 per 100 cubic foot increase per month for the remainder of 2021, $0.84 in 2022 (15%), and $0.97 in 2023 (15%). The typical Mount Vernon household uses between 300 to 600 cubic feet per month.
The proposed increase was initially brought to council on Nov. 30, 2020. It was based on financial projections that under current rates, the city will not be able to meet the expected costs unless wastewater fees are adjusted. These costs include capital projects at the wastewater treatment plant for the refurbishment of the two digesters and upgrades for the removal of phosphorus as mandated by the Ohio EPA. In addition, this mandate will increase operating costs of the plant for additional chemicals and the disposal of additional waste sludge generated by the process.
Council decided at its Dec. 28, 2020, legislative session to hold a public meeting Jan. 19 to provide information directly to the community and gather additional feedback. In addition, council postponed voting on the proposed increase in wastewater rates until the Jan. 25 council meeting.
Interested parties may join the public meeting at 6:30 PM on Jan. 19 via Zoom in a virtual meeting at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85708495920 (Meeting ID: 857 0849 5920 Passcode: 299578). More information about the wastewater utility is also found at MountVernonOhio.org.