Council Considers Sewage Rate Hike

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cityhall211At the regular meeting of Milford City Council on January 28, 2013, councilmembers learned of a bill, received by the city from Kent County for debt service of the Southern Bypass Project. The bill, in the amount of $58,787.21, represented interest only charges for 2011 and 2012, as well as the first payment of interest and principal for February 2013. Council members voted at that meeting to transfer the amount due from sewer reserves to pay the bill, planning to discuss an increase in sewer rates to cover the project costs at a future meeting.

On Monday, February 25, 2013, City Manager Richard Carmean explained that an increase of $0.07 per 1,000 gallons to the citizens of Milford would completely cover the payments owed to Kent County on the project, which cost over $2 million to complete.

“This project began when a force main on Route 1 going from Station 7, which is next to the police department, ruptured, causing sewage to spill into the Mispillion River,” Carmean explained. “According to the Kent County Public Works Director, Hans Medlarz, the City entered into a joint operation agreement to build a bypass to keep this from happening again. Kent County would borrow the money from the USDA on behalf of the county and the City, and Milford would be responsible for 60.5 percent of the project, which council approved.”

The project took some time to complete, and it was on completion that payments came due. The USDA bond loan has a balance of just over $1.2 million, and the City is now responsible for four payments per year over the next 35 years.

“Milford is the oldest system on the Kent County line,” said Councilman Skip Pikus. “We agreed to help fund the bypass to keep spills like that which happened a few years ago from happening again. I recall that the line was patched initially, but we knew that to prevent any problems, we would have to agree to this bypass. The bottom line is that the cost of the project must fall to the users, and, unfortunately, those users are the citizens and businesses in Milford.”

The average household in Milford contributes between 5,000 and 7,000 gallons to the sewer system each month. The proposed increase would increase the average sewage customer’s bill by $0.35 to $0.49 per month, an amount most people will not even notice, said Councilman Pikus.

“With such a small increase, few people will even realize their bill went up,” Pikus explained. “But that small amount will be enough to pay for this project, which, in the long run, offers better environmental protection to the city.”

Richard Carmean pointed out that the sewage collection system runs under the Mispillion River, and if there was ever a breakdown in the system, there was no other way to get sewage out of town, which is another reason why the bypass was so important. City Council will vote on the proposed increase to sewage rates at the March 11, 2013 council meeting.