Sanitary sewer rates in Newton are expected to increase by 5 percent in order to enable future funding of capital projects, following the city council’s decision to approve the first reading of the ordinance during its meeting Monday night.
If all three readings are approved and the ordinance is adopted by the Newton City Council, the proposed rate increase would stay in effect for five years beginning July 1 of this year and end 2023. City staff have noted this is the same sanitary sewer rate increase that occurred in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
Jody Rhone, public works director for the City of Newton, estimated residents with low water use households will have a minimum monthly charge of $12.52, an increase of $0.60 per month for the first year. Average water use residences will likely see a monthly charge of $28.55, an increase of $1.34 per month for the first year.
Each subsequent year the rates will increase after the initial change is implemented in July. At the city council meeting, council member Evelyn George described the rate difference as a “minimal amount” when factoring what it would cost per household.
Typically, city sewer rates need to be increased each year “to keep pace with infrastructure replacement, repairs, capital projects, capital equipment, continuing to fund the I&I (Inflow & Infiltration) Program and inflation,” according to council agenda documents.
Adjusting the rates periodically allows the city’s public works department to maintain a balance and avoid a larger rate surge at a later date. Furthermore, staff identified several capital projects in excess of $7 million as “immediate needs in the 2018 facility plans update.”
City engineers recommended construction of the projects be completed within the next five years, of which include an estimated $2.31 million biosolids liquid storage and digester cover rehabilitation project at the Newton Water Treatment Plant. An engineering design for the project is expected to begin later this year.
Newton Mayor Mike Hansen referred the council back to its decision to implement the I&I Program, a city-wide procedure “to prevent sanitary sewer overflows and sewer backups by eliminating storm water and groundwater from entering the sanitary sewer system.” The program, he said, was paid for by increasing the sanitary sewer rates
“To me, this is just a continuation of that,” Hansen said. “If you’ll recall, our public works director gave us a report here awhile back regarding the amount of progress we have made with that, to the extent that we were having hundreds of sewer backups in our community. And now we’ve reduced it to maybe 30 or somewhere in that neighborhood.”
Hansen added that he is favor of the rate increase in part due to it directly influencing the effectiveness of the city’s I&I Program to rid the community of sewer backups and overflows. Rhone said the public works department has spent about $1.4 million on the I&I Program and is expecting to propose an “I&I 2.0 Program” sometime in the future.
Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or