Village poised to raise sewer rate 11.4%

Public Works Board recommends increase to pay for capital improvements, offset drop in overall water use
By 
JOE POIRIER
Ozaukee Press Staff

Village of Grafton residents may see an 11.4% increase in their sewer bill this month.

The Board of Public Works on Monday recommended the rate hike to the Village Board, which is expected to take action at its Monday, Sept. 16, meeting.

A study by Trilogy Consulting of Milwaukee in 2017 recommended the village incrementally raise sewer rates each year from 2017 to 2021 with increases of 20%, 15.5%, 2.5%, 2% and 2%, respectively. 

Last year, the rates were revised to have increases of 15.3% in 2019 and 15% in 2020.

Higher rate increases have been recommended for future years due to increased capital improvement costs and lower-than-expected water volume sales. The rate increases will help pay for a new headworks building for the Water and Wastewater Department that will cost $7.39 million, Public Works Director Amber Thomas said. 

A recent review by Trilogy Consulting recommended an 11.4% increase to take effect this month.

Thomas said the lower-than-expected rate is based on actual costs to date for the infrastructure improvements, and the bill will be sent to residents at the end of September.

She noted that the village has received complaints about the rate increase in previous years. 

“There’s always concerns when rates increase. Last year was less than what we’ve seen in the past,” Thomas said.

The proposal to increase the rates was driven by a significant decrease in water and sewer use.    

Officials said that the decrease is difficult to believe due to commercial and residential growth in the village, but the amount of water sold by the Grafton water and wastewater utility decreased by 87.2 million gallons over 15 years, dropping from 412.6 million in 2000 to 325.4 million in 2015.

The decrease in water use and related sewer use resulted in a $709,123 loss in revenue for the utility, the study stated.

Village Administrator Jesse Thyes said that while the village has experienced significant growth since 2000, including the opening of Aurora Medical Center in 2010 and large retail stores in the eastside commercial district, those operations are relatively efficient water users. Several manufacturing companies, historically the largest water users, are no longer in operation. 

The headworks building is the first of three projects for the Water and Wastewater Department that will be supported by revenue from the rate increase. The other two projects will include buying new equipment for filtering biosolids planned for 2023 and an activated-sludge project scheduled for 2028. 

The current headworks facility is about 35 years old and is “no longer effective,” Director of Planning and Development Jessica Wolff said at a recent Plan Commission meeting. Typically, water-treatment facilities have a 20-year lifespan.

Utility Supt. Tim Nennig said the new facility will increase the current capacity of the facility to accommodate growth in the village for the next 20 to 30 years.

The headworks building will also replace a screw-pump facility that will be demolished.

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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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