Port council signs off on 6.8% sewer rate increase

Hike needed to pay for generator required after bypasses, replacement of disinfection system
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

Port Washington residents will find their water bills increasing this year.

The Port Washington Common Council on Tuesday approved a wastewater rate hike of about 6.8%, increasing the fixed rate 4.7%  from $30.46 to $31.90 and the variable rate 8.8% from $2.94 per 100 cubic feet to $3.20.

Wastewater Supt. Dan Buehler noted this is the first rate increase since 2011, adding it was spurred by two upcoming projects — the installation of a backup generator that the Department of Natural Resources is requiring and the replacement of the wastewater plant’s ultraviolet disinfection system.

Those projects are expected to cost $1 million to $1.2 million, he said.

While the department has some reserve funds, “we don’t want to drain the well dry,” Buehler said, noting the city will borrow money for the projects.

Buehler said that his calculations show that a higher increase is justified, but this isn’t the time to do that.

The wastewater plant expects some major capital upgrades in 2023, when the utility pays off its loan for the current plant, Buehler said.

“That will affect people the least because we’ll be retiring the loan,” he said.

  And, since the sewer bill is calculated by the amount of water used, the utility is finding that its revenues are decreasing as residents buy water-conserving appliances, Buehler said in a memo to the council.

Buehler noted that Port’s sewer rate is lower than other central and northern Ozaukee County communities. When the last rate increase was instituted, he said, the city was in the middle of the pack.

“And even with the increase, we’re still going to be near the bottom compared to other communities,” he said.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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