December 12, 2012 - Clarkston citizens were supposed to see their sewer rates reduced in November 2011, but they're still paying $97 each quarter, and some residents are asking why their rates are so high.
"It's a good question," said former Councilman Richard Bisio.
In May 2009, citizens received letters in the mail saying their sewer rates would increase from $57 to $97.
The correspondence said the increase was due to the city's debt to Independence Township Public Works, which would require retroactive payments totaling $52,000. Additionally, a break in the sewer on Washington Street had depleted the sewer reserve fund to $164,634. The city eventually paid $99,131 to fix the break.
To cover the new costs, Clarkston citizens were billed an extra $40 each quarter for 10 quarters starting May 2009. Those 10 quarters are up and residents have been doling out $97 for an extra five quarters.
City Manager Dennis Ritter said the city settled up the $52,000 with the township in January of 2012, and the current sewer fund reserve is approximately $200,000. More accurate sewer fund numbers will be available once the city receives its audit, Ritter added.
For sewage disposal and maintenance, the Township currently charges the City $88 per home each quarter. The City does its own billing and charges an extra $9, which "continues to go into building the sewer fund," said Ritter.
According to Mayor Joe Luginski, residents will likely never see their rates return to $57.
"The odds of that happening are zero based on the new rates we are being charged by the township," said Luginski. "What was thought might happen a few years ago, unfortunately, with changes in the economy and rates and everything else, it just didn't turn out to be that way."
Although the subject of lowering the sewer rates came up in a council meeting on April 9, 2012, city officials did not vote on the matter. During the discussion, Bisio asked Ritter for a timeframe on a decision about the sewer rates to which he answered, "at the end of this month."
"I don't want to rush into a decision on this," said Luginski at the meeting. "I want to make sure we look into it."
Since lowering the sewer rates appeared on the council's agenda in April, it has not shown up on any subsequent agendas. Should the city reduce its rates from $97 as promised?
"That question was never answered," said Bisio.
While letters were sent to residents informing them of the rate increase in 2009, there has been no correspondence with citizens about what they currently pay for sewer.
"The letter that went out [in May 2009] may have misguided a lot of people," said Ritter, whose signature was at the bottom of the correspondence three years ago. "In retrospect, it was worded improperly."
Ritter said he intends to talk the matter over with the City's attorney, and "if a refund is necessary, that's what we'll do," he said.
The next City Council meeting will be on Monday, Jan. 14 at 7 p.m. at the City Hall on Depot Road.
Clarkston News reporter