The Fulton City Council granted first-round approval Tuesday night to ordinances that would raise both the water and sewer rates for city customers.
Due to necessary infrastructure improvements for both systems, the Fulton Utility Board has recommended 25 percent increases for both sewer and water starting in December 2010, with another 25 percent increase in December 2011.
Director of Administration Bill Johnson explained that the city recently received a sewer abatement order from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources stemming from a sewage overflow at the Route O lift station in March that results in extensive, expensive updates to the sewer infrastructure.
"We have had a lot of problems at that area due to the prison and things the inmates were flushing," Johnson said as he revisited the incident. "We hired contractors to do $28,000 in repairs, and the very first night it failed (resulting in 846,000 gallons of untreated wastewater being discharged). We received a notice of violation that has turned into this abatement order.
"What they want us to do is totally eliminate rainwater running into our sewer system and SSOs -- sanitary sewer overflow."
Johnson explained that the city still is in the negotiation phase regarding the abatement order, but said the improvements and deadlines for those improvements are firm.
Utilities Superintendent Darrell Dunlap told the council DNR now is issuing abatement orders to any municipality after one SSO incident.
He said state officials "seem to be happy that we've already started smoking the system, trying to find some of the worst areas," later pointing out the city has approximately 95 miles of sewer lines that need to be checked and potentially be repaired or replaced in order to meet the guidelines set down by the abatement order.
"We had recently received information that our sewer rates were some of the lowest in the state, and we knew we needed to make some improvements," Mayor Charlie Latham said. "This abatement order has reinforced the fact we need to do something about our sewer rates."
Later in the meeting, Johnson described the need for the water rate increase, attributing it in large part to the need for a new water tower.
"We lost the ability to use the tower at the state hospital because of a diesel spill, so in the summer the city is short on storage," he said. "What we want to do is build a new tower on that same site at a higher elevation."
He said the city also would drill a new well at the west water tower, which was built with an inflow pipe and an outflow pipe, but no storage. Johnson also said he wants to explore the possibility of connecting the new water tower at the state hospital to the two wells that already are there, but are not in use because the current tower is inactive.
Estimated cost for that project is $1.3 million to $1.5 million.
Ward 1 councilman Wayne Chailland asked whether these would be permanent increases. Johnson responded that the sewer increase likely would be permanent, but the water increase would be necessary for five to six years, at which point the council could revisit the issue.
Ward 2 alderperson Mary Rehklau asked when the city had last increased the water and sewer rates. Latham said the sewer rate last had gone up in December 2007, and the water rate in 2005 or 2006. Johnson said he would look up the exact dates for the next council meeting.