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Russellville faces rate hike for new sewer plant

Russellville faces rate hike for new sewer plant

March 20th, 2017 by Michelle Brooks in Local News

RUSSELLVILLE — Sewer rates will increase for those in Russellville beginning April 1.

As a necessity to work toward compliance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's standards, voters approved the ability for a bond issue in August 2014 to replace the present three-lagoon system.

The current wastewater system exceeds the the EPA limits for ammonia.

Bartlett and West Engineering Consultants representatives updated about two dozen residents at a public meeting last week that the project is ready to move into the design phase.

The new wastewater treatment plant, a moving-bed biofilm reactor process, will cost about $2.4 million, said engineer Gary Davis.

The city will benefit from an $830,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and a $500,000 grant through the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant program.

The city will pay $139,000 and the USDA has approved a rural development loan for the remaining $904,000.

The rate increase will be made incrementally over the next eight quarters to help cover the cost of the 33-year loan.

Then engineers agreed this is a good deal for the city because less debt means less of a rate increase to cover the government-mandated upgrade.

To be eligible for the other funding sources, the city was required to raise its rates no less than 2 percent of the median household income, Davis said.

The result of the rate increase at the end of the two year phase-in for a home averaging 4,000 gallons per month would go from about $52.49 to $67.98.

The rate increase only applies to wastewater. It does not affect water volume, such as pools or lawns.

Bartlett & West will begin work on permits, documents and seeking bids from contractors.

Construction may begin in 2018 on the same site at the existing plant. The medium-sized lagoon will be retained as an equalization tank.

The new plant likely will not be open before 2019.

"We selected a plant with some adaptability for additives or processes technology that has flexibility for the future," said engineer Bob Gilbert.

The rate increase announcement will be included in the city newsletter, mailed to the 325 households with meters.

"This is bittersweet," West Ward Alderman Jonathan Freeman said following the public meeting. "It has to be done, but people don't want to do it."

West Ward Alderman Jarad Roark added, "If it doesn't get done, (Missouri Department of Natural Resources) will come in and do it."