Fort Wayne council holds off on vote for sewer system ordinance

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Tuesday night, by a 5-3 margin, Fort Wayne City council decided to hold off on voting on an ordinance that will improve the city’s sewer system, while raising the residents’ sewer bills.

The council did not want to rush the decision, and decided to vote on the ordinance next week to make sure they weighed out all of the options.

Fort Wayne resident sewer bills could become a little more expensive, if this ordinance is passed.

The full sewer rate hike would take place over five years. In total, the typical resident would pay about $12 dollars extra.

Fort Wayne Public Works officials are proposing a funding ordinance of $380 million to “protect our rivers, support our neighborhoods and prepare the community for the future.”

The plan calls for a rate adjustment of about 5 percent in each of the next five years to fund the improvements, which are mandated by the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency. They are not funded by the federal government.

If the hike passes at City council, the typical Fort Wayne resident would pay about $43.64 in 2020, $45.96 in 2021, $48.60 in 2022, $51.01 in 2023, and $53.69 in 2024.

“It’s ridiculous because our sewer bill is probably going to go up about $10 a month,” said resident Anne Moeller. “I mean we’re on social security, so it’s extremely high as it is, especially for someone on fixed income, and then to find out that we have to pay more is crazy.”

Public Works’ vision is to repair and rehab aging sewer pipes, maintain the system for reliability, eliminate sanitary sewer overflows, reduce sewer backups, and establish the Long Term Control Plan to significantly reduce the number of combined sewer overflows that were occurring 71 times a year (requirement allows no more than an average of one on the St. Joseph River and no more than four on the St. Marys and Maumee per year, when the plan reaches completion in 2025).

The Long-Term Control Plan, an 18-year strategy, called for a reduction in sewer overflows through sewer separation, an increase in treatment system capacity by upgrades to treat more and store more sewage, and the ability to collect more combined sewage with system expansion. That includes the creation of the city’s the Deep Rock Tunnel.

Many residents like the plan, but want to see where their money is going.

“I’m all for it,” said resident Jason O’Grady. “I just want to know where the money goes. I want to see the progress on it, just kind of see what they’re doing with the sewer system.

City officials are working on giving the public transparent and thorough updates, while maintaining that the rate hike is necessary.

“We’re protecting 33,000 homes from basement backups and from street flooding in their neighborhoods,” said City of Fort Wayne spokesman Frank Suarez. “Plus, keeping over a billion gallons of sewage out of the rivers is really something the community understands, but certainly anybody is always hesitant when they have to have a rate increase.”

Suarez recommends anyone who wants to learn about progress and updates, visit the City of Fort Wayne Utilities website.

If city council passes the ordinance, it will take effect in April.

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