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Published: Friday, 7/28/2006

Toledo studies increase in sewer, water rates

The Finkbeiner administration could propose an increase in sewer and water rates as early as next month.

Bob Williams, director of Toledo's public utilities department, yesterday warned council's environment, utilities, and public services committee during a hearing on this summer's devastating flooding about the coming rate increase proposal.

He focused on the storm water utility, established in 2000, but said the administration likely would propose increases in other utility rates as well.

"We have a backlog of over $200 million worth of work [in the storm sewer system], and no rate increase since five years ago," Mr. Williams said.

The storm water fund generates $8 million a year, of which $3 million is spent on capital improvements and $5 million on operations.

He said rain gauges in the Bennett and Laskey roads area recorded up to 10.83 inches from June 21 to July 12. That compares with the record of 8.48 inches for rainfall in a single month, in June, 1981, since 1875.

Mr. Williams was not able to compare rolling 30-day rainfall totals, or the rainfall total for the month of June.

Under the storm water utility, residents pay $3.16 a month. Commercial property is taxed based on total impervious surface - rooftops and pavement.

In the last five years, the city has spent $20 million on capital improvements to the drainage system, he said.

Mr. Williams said the amount of the expected increase hasn't been calculated yet, and would have to be approved first by Mayor Carty Finkbeiner.

He reminded council that the storm water system is paid for out of a different fund than the sanitary sewer system, now undergoing a $450 million upgrade. The city just finished implementing four years of 9.75-percent increases in sanitary sewer rates.

Mr. Williams did not acknowledge any engineering or operational failures of the city's system of drains and ditches, which he said were "tested to the max."

He said the belief voiced by some city officials after the June 21 flood that Bowman Park had failed to work as a retention basin proved to be incorrect.

Warren Henry, new commissioner of engineering services, said the park was not intended to hold water, and a retention pond in the park worked as planned but could hold only a tiny fraction of the estimated 500 million gallons that flowed through the Shantee Creek that day.



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