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Rising sewer rates concern officials

By JIM MAURER
STAFF WRITER
NEW RIEGEL — A nearly 30 percent sewer rate increase for New Riegel got the attention of about 25 village, county, state and federal officials Wednesday who held an hour-long meeting and conference call to discuss possible solutions.
Quarterly sewer bills will increase next month from $205 to $314 per dwelling unit. A single-family residence is billed for one unit, while an apartment building owner is billed for multiple units. Seneca County now owns the village sewage system.
The village, with 248 residents, has a gravity-forced system with the sanitary sewage pumped about 7½ miles to Fostoria for treatment. Fostoria charges the village for the treatment and those rates have increased as the volume received at the wastewater treatment plant has increased.
According to a 2011 analysis, the village’s wastewater discharge was 7,546 hundred cubic feet, while there were 16,442 hundred cubic feet treated by Fostoria.
Those figures indicate surface water is infiltrating the system through cracked pipes or loose pipe joints, according to Seneca County Commissioner Fred Zoeller.
Zoeller said the wastewater system expenses were about $218,000 in 2013 and income was about $160,000. The annual expenses include about $60,000 for payment on a $1.3 million, 40-year system debt and $75,000 to Fostoria for wastewater treatment, according to the county engineer’s office.
Complicating the problem is the fact the system was designed to serve Farmland Foods, which closed its meat processing plant and eventually sold the building. The company was expected to cover about 60 percent of the debt payment, but never hooked up to the system.
As a result, the system is oversized for the number of users, officials say.
There are 115 residential units in the village and 13 outside the village limits, New Riegel Mayor Larry Bouillon said, including 11 businesses.
Zoeller said there have been discussions about installing a fiberglass “sleeve” into the sewer lines to decrease their diameter from 10 inches to 6 inches, which should allow more efficient operation. It will also seal any leaks and reduce the amount of water being pumped to Fostoria.
Financial assistance will be necessary to make improvements, officials said. None of the representatives of state or federal lawmakers, some who listened via a conference call, committed to providing any funds.
“The village needs help,” Zoeller said. “I’m not sure what we can do. If rates continue as they are, it will become a ghost town.”
“People have just about had enough,” Bouillon said about rate increases over the past three years.
Maurer: 419-427-8420 Send an E-mail to Jim Maurer

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