Council moves closers to 20% sewer rate increase


Galion City Council members on May 28 revisited Ordinance 2024-33 as they continued discussions about raising sewer rates in the city.

If passed, the ordinance would increase current rates by around 20%. For residents using up the minimum amount of sewage, rates will climb from $7.51 to $9.01. The first 100 cubic feet of usage will change from a $10.33 charge to $12.40. If passed, these rate hikes will go into effect on bills rendered on or after June 1.

The council made one change to the ordinance after its first reading at the beginning of May. Originally, the flat rates for residents who are on well water and only use city sewage were not increased. At the first reading, several council members suggested that this rate should rise to be fair to other citizens.

Council approved an amendment that would take the flat rate for non-rural residents from $42.30 to $50.76 and from $63.46 to $76.15 for rural residents. Council members noted that the flat rate may not have been increased in nearly 60 years.

Third Ward council member Mike Richart explained the changes to the council, emphasizing the need for more funding to maintain, update, and repair the existing sewage infrastructure.

“What we’re trying to do here is a gradual increase of rates to mitigate the amount of funds that we’re going to have to take out of the general fund,” Richart said. “And it’s not a good idea to take funds out of the general fund to pay utilities. That’s a really, really, really bad idea.”

Even with the current rate increases and the expected infusion from the general fund, Richart warned council that these efforts would not be enough to fix the problem immediately.

“This is probably not the last we’ll hear on raising rates. This does not cover the entire amount,” he said. He reminded the council that over the last several years, expenses in every sector have increased and are continuing to rise.

Council member Cathy George expressed some hesitation about increasing sewage rates and asked Safety Service Director Nicole Ward for her input.

In reference to a 2021 study, Ward said, “Over the past three or four years, wages have not held steady, the cost of operating the plant has not held steady, but our rates have.”

Ward continued to advocate for the rate increase, saying, “The cost of doing business is increasing, but our revenue is not.”

Both Richart and Ward mentioned that the facility is in need of repairs which will add to the costs sewage rates need to cover. Ward told George that she expects an engineer’s report in the next two weeks with details about the exact repairs the plant needs.

“Just like at the water plant, (the sewage treatment plant is) old and needs some fairly major updating,” Ward said. “I don’t think this is something that we’re just deciding to do. It’s something that hasn’t been done for quite some time, and the cost of operating has gone up pretty significantly with no revenue to support that cost of operation.”

George stated that she understood the need to charge residents more for sewer usage, but she again expressed concern about citizens being able to pay the fees.

Mayor Tom O’Leary pointed out that “a half million” would be pulled from the general fund to offset the costs of the sewer plant. He compared the plant to having a 40-year-old furnace in a home – it needs upkeep.

“We didn’t keep up with the capital improvements,” he said.

O’Leary added the general fund was already supporting other public services and could not take on the full weight of the sewer plant. Grants may be an option, O’Leary continued, but there is no guarantee that any would be awarded and cautioned the council against taking on any more debt.

The council moved the ordinance on to its third reading.

Hannah Bryan is a correspondent for the Galion Inquirer. She can be reached at [email protected].

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