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Fort Madison Aldermen Reject Sewer Rate Hike

Fort Madison residents will not see a rate hike on their sewer bills later this year. That means fewer sewer improvement projects will take place throughout the city.

The proposal voted down by the city council called for a roughly 8% rate hike on July 1, 2019 and a roughly 5% increase on July 1, 2020. After that, the rate would go increase 2% annually, starting July 1, 2021.

City Manager David Varley said the current sewer rate is not bringing in enough money to pay for annual maintenance work and sewer installation projects as well as the federally-mandated separation of the city’s combined sanitary and storm water sewer system. The city has until 2029 to separate the system so that raw sewage does not enter the Mississippi River during heavy rains.

“We don’t have the funds in our budget to do all of those now because a lot of the raise was going to meet that,” said Varley. “If we don’t meet that deadline with the federal government, that’s when your fine of $10,000/day starts. Now, we will put that as a top priority, but we won’t be able to do all three things.”

Varley said the city has completed about 50% of the federally-mandated sewer upgrade.  He said the estimated costs for several upcoming projects include $1.1 million for the 12th Street CSO project and at least $2 million for the 10th Street CSO project.

Fort Madison estimated the average residential customer would pay an extra $72/year for sewer services. It is projecting a roughly $250,000 shortfall in the sewer department’s budget for the fiscal year starting July 1.

Aldermen did not comment on the rate hike before voting it down. At a previous meeting, there were requests to spread out the increase over more years to reduce the impact on residential bills.

This story was produced by Tri States Public Radio.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the important issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.