City won’t raise sewer rates...yet; consultant to do study

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 SHEPHERDSVILLE - Sewer customers in the city of Shepherdsville can expect some type of rate increase in the coming months.

Whether that will be 4 percent or 74 percent will not be known for some time. But the city moved forward with its plan to contract with a company to do an assessment of the current rates and what might be needed to cover the debt and daily operations of the system.

The Shepherdsville City Council voted unanimously to hire Lee Utility Consultant to do a rate assessment for the sewer system. That assessment should be done within a month.

The cost will be $3,000.

Karen Lee, owner of the company and an employee of the state Public Service Commission for 24 years, said she would prepare a study looking into all the data.

The only question came when the council began to discuss whether a decision should be made or whether rate hikes should be imposed immediately.

“Every day that goes by we go deeper in debt,” said councilman Bernie Brown. 

He would later propose a 25 percent rate hike for sewer customers.

Councilman Larry Hatfield said that before any vote on a rate was taken, a second opinion was needed from the rate assessment.

Councilman Alan Wetzel agreed that there must be some basis for imposing any rate increase.

Councilmember Bonnie Enlow said she didn’t want to go blindly out to decide what the rate should be.

City attorney Joseph Wantland said if there are 4,500 customers and the debt service is $2.1 million, each customer would be paying $40 a month in debt service as part of their bill.

“We must address this,” said Wantland.

Brown said he didn’t understand why the city didn’t follow its ordinance and increase rates each year by a small amount. Now, he said the city is faced with a large increase.

“We are in a financial crisis,” said Brown.

His motion for a 25 percent increase immediately did not get a second. But it did get a reaction from resident Duane Price.

“We’re tired of paying for it,” Price said of citizens covering the cost for mistakes by city officials.

He proposed starting with a 4 percent increase and see what that does for the city.

“I’m tired of you threatening us with government takeover,” said Price. 

The local businessman said he would go along with the 4 percent hike but he didn’t know where the 25 percent came from.

“Twenty-five percent is definitely not the answer for me,” said Price.

Hatfield said that the city’s woes date back to 1999 when the federal government became concerned over infiltration problems at the sewer plant.

Work was done on various ways to stop the infiltration and to begin the interceptor line, which would take off the lift stations.

With or without the new line to southern areas of Bullitt County, Hatfield said the sewer plant expansion was still mandated.