Jefferson County residents will see sewer rates go up 6.9 percent beginning next month.
The Metropolitan Sewer District’s board approved the rate hike at a special meeting Friday. It comes after months of lobbying from district officials for a much larger rate increase; two separate proposals to accomplish that were passed over last night by Metro Council.
The MSD Board only has the power to raise rates 6.9 percent without Metro Council approval. The board was seeking a 20 percent rate increase, but for the second year in a row the plan didn’t get lawmaker buy-in. Another alternative proposal before the Metro Council would have allowed the MSD Board to raise rates up to 10 percent by itself for the next five years; that, too, didn’t receive a vote.
In the meeting Friday, board members bemoaned Metro Council’s inaction, questioning if political posturing tabled the 20 percent rate increase.
“I think this represents a failure of our community leaders to address issues related to the public health and safety of this community,” said MSD Infrastructure Committee Chair John Phelps. “I find it ironic that we can get pressure from the Mayor and from Metro Council to spend millions of dollars on aesthetic improvements to our storm retention basins … and then not fund us when we absolutely have to have it. It just doesn’t make sense.”
District officials say the agency faces nearly $4.3 billion in repair costs to its aging flood protection and sewer infrastructure. This is in addition to the federal consent decree to reduce sewer overflows into the Ohio River: MSD has already spent more than $400 million on those projects, and is projected to spend another $500 million through 2024.
Those numbers stirred MSD Chief Engineer Angela Akridge, who said less funding for the critical systems could bring disaster.
“Every time it rains, who’s it going to be? Whose house is going to flood that can’t afford it? Which baby is going to be in a boat?” Akridge asked. “Operations will continue to work around the clock. But we will live in fear. We will live in fear of the next catastrophe and we will do our best to protect and serve.”
MSD Executive Director Tony Parrott said conversations to address the sewer systems and needed repairs will continue.
The rate increase will raise the average customer’s bill by $3.63 per month.