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Looking for ways to lower sewer costs

Tana Weingartner

As Hamilton County Commissioners are faced with raising sewer rates again, they're wondering if there's another way to find some relief for ratepayers.

Commission president Chris Monzel says "it's staggering, the amount of money that we have to put into this every year."

He's referring to the multi-billion dollar federal mandate to upgrade the county's sewer system.

Commissioner Greg Hartmann agrees. "Ratepayers are just getting absolutely soaked," he says.

Sewer rates have been increasing yearly, and are expected to continue doing so, in order to pay for the system overhaul.

Commissioner Todd Portune says those compounding rates are frustrating. "Every year when the rate goes up five percent, that's five percent on the year before."

Metropolitan Sewer District's proposed 2015 budget includes a 5.5 percent rate hike.

What might be done to lower costs?

With all those increases, the board is questioning if MSD has hit something called the "residential indicator." The indicator is a complex calculation based, in part, on sewer costs and median household income. If upgrade costs exceed the indicator, the county could have cause to have the consent decree modified, possibly leading to cost savings. The last time the county did the math, it did not meet the necessary level.