Galena water bills may de­crease while sewer bills in­crease

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By DANIEL DIVILIO

Spe­cial from the Kent County News

— The mayor and coun­cil held a pub­lic hear­ing Mon­day, Aug. 1, on a re­port rec­om­mend­ing changes to Galena’s water and sewer rate struc­tures as con­struc­tion is un­der­way on a new waste­water treat­ment plant.

Ac­cord­ing to con­sul­tants from AECOM, an en­gi­neer­ing firm, the rec­om­mended rate struc­ture should be based on a flat use of 7,500 gal­lons per quar­ter, with ad­di­tional fees for ev­ery 1,000 gal­lons used there­after. The cost in­crease also would be phased in over the next two years.

“What we found was that the me­dian us­age of all of the users — that’s com­mer­cial, in­sti­tu­tional and res­i­den­tial — was about 7,500 gal­lons per quar­ter,” AECOM’s Chris Rogers said. “So we thought that was a good de­marka­tion line of us­age to frame our al­ter­na­tives.”

For the first 7,500 gal­lons of sewer this year, AECOM rec­om­mends charg­ing $96.75, plus $12.90 per ev­ery 1,000 gal­lons above the base amount. For water, the base rate would be $67.50 for the first 7,500 gal­lons and $9 for ev­ery $1,000 gal­lons af­ter that.

For the fol­low­ing year, the base sewer rate

GALENA

would jump to $136.88, with an ad­di­tional $18.55 fee for ev­ery 1,000 gal­lons in ex­cess. The base water rate would go to $68.25, with $9.10 added for us­age be­yond 7,500 gal­lons.

AECOM also sug­gested a 1.25 mul­ti­plier for out-of-town users. It will not be ap­plied to those un­in­cor­po­rated prop­er­ties set to be served through a spe­cial agree­ment with the county, which is help­ing pay for the new waste­water treat­ment plant.

“There’s re­ally no ac­count­ing rea­sons to charge out-of-town peo­ple higher rates than in-town cus­tomers. How­ever, many towns do it be­cause they can and as a con­di­tion of pro­vid­ing ser­vice out­side where they are have to,” Rogers said.

Rogers said the quar­terly water bill for those us­ing up to 7,500 gal­lons would de­crease $14, while sewer bills would go up $29 a quar­ter.

Town Man­ager Sharon Wey­gand said the study was re­quired to se­cure fund­ing from the U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture for the waste­water treat­ment plant.

Ad­di­tional rec­om­men­da­tions were made for con­nec­tion fees and fees for main­tain­ing al­lo­ca­tions for un­de­vel­oped lots.

For months, town of­fi­cials and Laura Lane res­i­dents have been dis­cussing who is re­spon­si­ble for the main­te­nance of grinder pumps serv­ing in­di­vid­ual homes in the de- vel­op­ment. Laura Lane is the only area of town with the pumps, which were in­stalled by the de­vel­oper.

The town has pre­vi­ously ser­viced the grinder pumps with­out charge, a prac­tice Mayor Sam Sessa has said he was pre­vi­ously un­aware of. No one from the town has been able to find any doc­u­ments ced­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for the pumps to the mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment.

Dur­ing his pre­sen­ta­tion Mon­day, Rogers said the rate study also re­viewed the grinder pump is­sue. He said af­ter 10 of the 12 pumps were in­spected, one com­pany would be will­ing to en­ter into a ser­vice con­tract af­ter $20,146 worth of re­pairs are com­pleted. The an­nual ser­vice con­tract would then cost $345 for the first five years.

Rogers said the town would cover the costs for the ini­tial main­te­nance, while Laura Lane res­i­dents would be re­spon­si­ble for pay­ing the an­nual ser­vice cost.

Michael Pi­asecki, a Laura Lane res­i­dent and one of the de­vel­op­ers, said his re­search into other ju­ris­dic­tions show that there are mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties that take re­spon­si­bil­ity for the grinder pumps, just as Galena did in the past. He also ques­tioned why the town did not in­form res­i­dents that the grinder pumps were their re­spon­si­bil­ity.

Coun­cil­man Harry Pis­apia, who was mayor when the de­vel­op­ment was built, said it was not the town’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to in­form prop­erty own­ers that they had grinder pumps. He said that fell on the de­vel­op­ers.

Laura Lane res­i­dent John Ri­ley sug­gested the town get ad­di­tional bids for a main­te­nance con­tract.

Town At­tor­ney Tom Yea­ger said that due to cost associated with the con­tract, the town is re­quired to put it out to bid.

Sessa said the is­sue with the grinder pumps was not han­dled prop­erly. He said it was never the town’s in­tent to take on the re­spon­si­bil­ity for the pumps.

“I was un­aware that the Town of Galena was not billing for that sort of thing,” Sessa said. “I wasn’t aware that we were even in the grinder pump busi­ness to be hon­est with you.”

The coun­cil plans to con­tinue dis­cus­sions on the rate study at its Septem­ber meet­ing.

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