FORT WAYNE – Fifty Leo-Cedarville residents objecting to a sewer rate increase filed a petition with the county, but a technical error forced the Allen County commissioners to reject the appeal request Friday.
County Attorney Bill Fishering advised the commissioners to reject the appeal because the petitioners did not specify a reason for their objections.
Rates will go up 37 percent beginning Jan. 1, from $39.50 to $52.20 monthly.
The Leo-Cedarville Regional Sewer District board of directors approved the increase Oct. 3. Residents within a regional sewer district are allowed to petition increases exceeding 5 percent and request a public hearing within 30 days of the approved increase.
Denying the petition will give project opponents an additional week to make corrections and resubmit it to the commissioners, Fishering said.
If a hearing is conducted, the commissioners can decide to sustain the new rates, sustain the petition, or make any other ruling appropriate in the matter, according to state law.
Dave Jones, president of the regional sewer district board, said the rate increases are necessary to support a nearly $5 million infrastructure project in the works. The town of 3,600 will borrow the money through a long-term, low-interest federal loan.
The system was built in 1978 for 600 ratepayers, Jones said. That number has nearly tripled to 1,700 today, he said.
Leo-Cedarvilles growth has driven operating costs up at unprecedented levels, he said.
This 35-year-old system is getting a lot of usage, Jones said. We have a lot of new subdivisions, and we must modify the system.
When the system was built, Leo-Cedarville paid only 30 percent of the costs – the rest was covered by federal grants, Jones said.
But the demographics have changed, he said. No longer do we qualify for grants. We are responsible for 100 percent of the costs.
Leo-Cedarville pumps its wastewater seven miles to Fort Wayne City Utilities for processing and conveyance is conducted through the original 8-inch line, Jones said.
The town paid City Utilities $305,260 for processing about 106 million gallons of sewage last year. That cost has nearly doubled over the last five years.
Costs of conveyance and processing are based on distance as well as capacity – the amount of wastewater in the pipes, City Utilities spokesman Fred Suarez said.
Project plans call for updating and replacing pump stations and replacing the old 8-inch line with two 12-inch lines, he said.
Rates have been very, very low for a long time, Jones said. Its definitely been a challenge.
The sewer district publishes and distributes a quarterly newsletter and Jones said they have been vigilant about warning the public that the system was in dire need of updates.
In the newsletter, the board profiled the monthly sewage bills of nearby communities for comparison with Leo-Cedarvilles rate of $52.20, including:
Cedar Canyons/Shores: $114.74
Deer Track Estates: $110.13
Auburn (outside city): $67.37
Auburn (inside city): $53.90
New Haven: $60.64
Fort Wayne (outside city): $62.18
Fort Wayne (inside city): 49.74
Columbia City: $55.55
Leo-Cedarville will begin the infrastructure project soon and plans to have it completed within a year. The recent increase should be the only one necessary to complete the project, Jones said.