Water rates will increase by 15 percent for London residents following the publication of a new ordinance. The London City Council approved the second reading of an ordinance to establish reconnect fees and establishing water and sewer rates Tuesday evening.
Steve Baker, superintendent of the London Utility Commission, said the first bill with the increased water rates should go out in October.
"Ninety-nine percent of this [ordinance] is verbatim what is already existing in [Ordinance 2009-06]," said Baker. "Only water rates have changed." He stressed that sewer rates will remain as they currently are.
Following the increase, water for in-city London Utility customers will go from $11.19 to $12.87 for the usage of 2,000 gallons in meters the size of 5 inches or less. For six-inch meters, the minimum service fee will be $285.42 for 2,000 gallons of water usage. For the following 2,000 gallons, a fee of $4 will apply to every 100 gallons.
Out-of-city London Utility customers will see an increase from $16.74 to $19.28 for 2,000 gallons in 5-inch meters or less, with six-inch meters at $428.80 for 2,000 gallons. For the following 4,000 gallons, a fee of $6.03 will apply to every 100 gallons.
Baker explained in last month's City Council meeting that the 15 percent increase in water rates will generate approximately $250,000. This money, Baker said, will primarily be dedicated to the next five-to-ten years of infrastructural changes.
"It allows us to replace aging infrastructure. We own about 100 miles of water lines in the city. Most of that is in really good shape," said Baker. "But, as with everything, we have to keep investing in it. We have about eight miles within that 100 miles that's in critical need of replacement."
The city's current water treatment plant is 20 years old. Baker said while the plant is still in good shape, it's becoming less efficient and costing the utility commission more to maintain. He said a more optimized water treatment plant will save the commission money in the long-run and be safer for both water treatment plant employees and the community.
"Currently, the predominant method for treating water is by employing chlorine gas," Baker told the Sentinel-Echo last month. "Essentially, you purchase gas in large cylinders and you employ that in small dosages to the water as it's being treated and disinfected. That's been the industry standard for most of the country for a long time. The downside to using that method is the safety of the operators and the safety of the community immediately around it."
According to Baker, in the unlikely incident of a chlorine gas leak, it could be dangerous if inhaled in high concentrations. The London Utility Commission moved to a new water purification method called the mixed oxidant method. This method is more efficient at water purification that takes the form of solvent and not a gas, eliminating the risk of gas leaks.
"With the chlorine gas method, we have significant safety measures implemented by OSHA and the EPA and other federal agencies," continued Baker. "There is an expense to remaining compliant with those federal regulations with regard to chlorine gas. If we didn't have to have chlorine gas on the premises, we can reduce significantly the overhead cost of keeping the community and the employees safe — and in this case, without the reduction of water quality."
Baker assured the council last month that the water rate increase will eliminate old and unreliable water lines, improve water consistency and quality, reduce damage to city streets and improve fire protection capacity in certain areas. In addition, Baker promised the rates will ultimately produce savings to London Utility Commission customers by reducing maintenance costs.
The Council expects the ordinance to be published today, September 6. Baker said the increased water rates should be seen on London Utility water bills starting in October. Water rates will be adjusted at the end of each 12-month period to account for inflation based on the customer-price index.
In other actions, the London City Council:
— Authorized to advertise bids for a forklift and used mobile shred truck.
— Advised Sue Hounchell of East Maple Street Road to speak with a lawyer with regards to claiming adverse possession on a plat of land by her home. Hounchell said she has spent 33 years maintaining the plat, as it was once called for a road which has never been built. Adverse possession will allow Hounchell to claim ownership of this plat.
— Approved the South Mill Streetscape Project. Banks Engineering will be surveying a creek that has been deemed to be too close to a road on South Mill Street to determine what can be done about it. Mayor Troy Rudder proposed building a pipe around the creek as an example.
— Held the first reading of Ordinance No. 2019-07 "An Ordinance Levying the Annual Ad Valorem Tax on Real Property, Motor Property, Motor Vehicles and Motor Boats and Other Personal Property for City Purposes in the Corporate Limits of London, Kentucky." This is an update on various city properties that the City Council must discuss every year. As of this first reading, these tax rates will remain the same as they were in 2018. Real property, motor vehicles and motorboats will be taxed .088 cents for every $100 of assessed value. As outlined in the ordinance, payments will be due to the city clerk by December 1. Payments made before the due date will have a 2% discount.
— Held the second reading of Ordinance No. 2019-06 "An Ordinance of the City of London Relating to Unfair Housing Practices, Financial Practices and Blockbusting." This ordinance specifies that discrimination cannot be made against certain people regarding disability and familial association.