By LINDA LOBECK
IRON MOUNTAIN - An increase in sewage rates was approved Monday by the city councils in Iron Mountain and Kingsford.
The increase is 56 cents per 1,000 gallons, effective July 1.
According to U.S. estimates, an average household of three uses 300 gallons of water daily, or about 9,000 gallons a month. A rate increase of 56 cents, in that case, amounts to about $5 monthly.
The cities of Iron Mountain and Kingsford operate jointly a wastewater treatment plant on the Menominee River in Breitung Township. The rate increase was recommended by the joint sewage board and forwarded to the city councils for approval.
Iron Mountain City Manager Jordan Stanchina told the council Monday that usually 80 percent of the rate charged goes towards operations and maintenance of the plant and 10 to 20 percent is for capital improvements. Since there hasn't been a rate increase since 2007, now 100 percent of the income goes towards operations and maintenance.
Plant superintendent Gary Lessard has prepared a five-year plan of items that need to be updated. The board has also hired a consultant to explore how to finance some of the items that need to be upgraded in the future.
"They have done as much as they can to repair what they have," Stanchina said. "Things are starting to add up with no rate increase. Our rates are very low and competitive especially with the rest of the U.P. If anything was the fail there (wastewater plant) it would pollute the river and we'd be fined. The longer you wait to fix things, the more it will cost in the long run," he said.
Stanchina said that, in addition to no rate increase in the past seven years, the number of gallons being treated has declined.
"The approved increase is just to address the most immediate concerns. There are a number of large ticket items and future concerns that will need to be evaluated," Stanchina told the council in a memo.
The sewage rate increase will mean $125,000 a year for capital improvements and achieve sufficient revenue for operations and maintenance at the wastewater plant. The funds going to capital improvements are used to fund equipment replacement, system upgrades and process optimizations at the plant, council members learned.
While the sewage rate for the city of Kingsford is based on thousands of gallons of water used, Iron Mountain is based on 100 cubic feet of water used. At Monday's meeting, the Iron Mountain City Council approved an increase of $4.10 per 1,000 cubic feet, which equals 56 cents per 1,000 gallons.
Linda Lobeck's email address is email@example.com.