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11.5% Sewer rate increase denied – for now

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By Marion Taylor

by marion taylor
intern, the oldham era
The City of La Grange said it needs to improve its waste water treatment plant to support future development. However, city council members and residents are adamantly opposed to a sewer rate increase.
Councilman Joe Davenport explained that the city needs to increase rates in order to pay for expansion of the sewage treatment plant.  
This expansion would also include improving pump stations and upsizing pipe lines, said Roy Horton, chairman of the La Grange Utilities Board.
The plant is currently at capacity and cannot support any additional development in the area.
Mayor Bill Lammlein said he does not usually support increasing rates, but “reluctantly I support this increase because I realize it’s a ‘have-to’ thing.”
Lammlein mentioned the city’s $10 million obligation to Oldham Reserve, the office, retail, and residential campus southwest of I-71 in La Grange.
The city’s current infrastructure does not have the capacity to develop any more property, which would hinder development of Oldham Reserve, Horton said.
Subdivisions that have already been approved will not be affected. However, any future subdivisions, commercial properties and small businesses cannot easily be approved without improvements to the sewage treatment plant.
“Without the plant having additional capacity, nothing big can come in,” Horton said.
Don Basham, chairman the Oldham La Grange Development Authority Board, said once developed, Oldham Reserve will produce close to half a million gallons of waste water per day.
Basham is concerned that future tenants of Oldham Reserve will build “$20-30 million facilities and not have the ability to service it with sewers,” he said.
John Bennett, director of the La Grange Utilities Commission, said the average household uses 5,700 gallons of waste water per month.
The average bill for La Grange’s 2,360 customers is currently $23.13 per month. Bennett said the average bill will increase $2.66 or 11.5 percent if the new rates are approved.   
According to the 2010 Kentucky Water & Sewer Rates Survey, the average La Grange Utilities bill was $18 less than Oldham County’s average bill.
The La Grange City Council denied the motion to increase sewer rates by a vote of 4-2 on Tuesday, July 5.
Rates have not been significantly increased since 2005, excluding the built-in increase of 2.5 percent each year.
Horton said the State will become involved if city council continues to reject the increase. “It’s going to happen one way or the other,” he said.
Lammlein said city council will revisit the proposed rate increase.
The increase for residential sewers would require a $7.85 minimum bill.
The surcharges are proposed as follows:  For the first 1,000 gallons, the rate would be $2.05 per 1,000 gallon. For the next 1,000 gallons, $2.51 per 1,000 gallon. For the next 13,000 gallons, $3.61 per 1,000 gallon. All over 15,000 gallons, $2.63 per 1,000 gallon.

E-mail us about this story at: mtaylor@oldhamera.com.