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Sewer, garbage hikes coming in Warren

City council voting Wednesday on raises over next six years

WARREN — City residents will be asked to pay more for their garbage pickup and elimination of sewage beginning this year, if council approves rate increases sought by the administration.

First readings of rate-increase proposals will take place on three ordinances at Wednesday’s council meeting.

An increase for the Water Pollution Control Department long has been expected, as the department at community forums in each of the city’s wards discussed what it is doing and what residents can do about stormwater overflow into the system.

Under the proposal the sewer rates gradually will increase to $3.69 per 100 cubic feet Sept. 1 to $4.94 per 100 cubic feet Sept. 1, 2026. For outside the city customers, the rates will be $5.18 per 100 cubic feet Sept. 1 to $6.94 per 100 cubic feet Sept. 1, 2026.

Ed Haller, Warren Pollution Control Department head, said the proposal represents a 6 percent increase each year over the next six years.

The new funds earned through higher rates will pay for improvements expected to be done in Phases II and III of an improvement plan previously announced by the city, according to Haller. The increased fees also will pay for work needed to decrease flooding in basements all over the city.

Water Pollution Control also will increase fees for septic-tank waste to a minimum of $25 per month for each septage-delivery contractor, for waste delivered to the treatment plant.

For Environmental Services, also known as the sanitation department, the rate will increase to $25.62 per month for backyard pickup and $16.62 per month for curbside pickup beginning Sept. 1. The rate for backyard pickup will increase to $26.37 per month and $17.37 per month for curbside pick up, beginning Sept. 1, 2022.

Mayor Doug Franklin emphasized the increase being requested by the Water Pollution Control Department is a result of much-needed and overdue improvements to the system.

“A lot of these improvements are mandated by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency,” Franklin said. “When it is broken down, the increases being requested are pretty reasonable. They are not as high as recommended by a study the city had done looking at the needs of the department.”

Franklin said Water Pollution Control’s last increase was in 2010.

The Environmental Services department requires an increase to pay for higher tipping fees, landfill costs and increased cost for 96-gallon toters.

“It is for the cost of running the department,” Franklin said. “The department does a great job. It is still pretty competitive to costs by private garbage companies.”

The last increase provided to the sanitation department was in 2012.

Councilwoman Helen Rucker, D-at Large, said the department has seen its fees going up over the last several years.

“They could have asked for this increase two years ago,” Rucker, head of council’s environmental services committee, said. “Our fees have gone up tremendously.”

Rucker noted the amount of garbage being put out for pickup was increasing before the COVID-19 pandemic and significantly increased during the pandemic.

“The department is strapped,” she said.

Councilman Larry Larson, D-1st Ward, head of council’s water and wastewater committee, emphasized the money being requested primarily will be used to pay for mandated repairs.

Councilman Ken McPherson, D-5th Ward, expects to support the proposed increase for the environmental department but categorically is against a rate increase for the Water Pollution Control Department.

“Why are we only fixing 30 percent of the problem?” he asked. “Why are we raising rates when everything is not fixed? Why are we spending good money after bad?”

“Why are we seeking rate increases when I don’t think we are capable of taking care of basement flooding happening to residents?”

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