Henrietta has followed Richmond’s suit and will vote to raise sewer rates next month to become effective in January.
The Board of Aldermen held a public hearing on the matter Saturday to decide how to approach an increase, and to get public input.
City Clerk Margie Long told the board they had a couple of choices. Last April, Richmond raised their sewer rates from $6.42 per thousand to $7.42. Richmond approved another increase last month that will raise rates from $7.42 per thousand to $7.82. Long said last spring Henrietta chose not to raise rates and ride out the summer. Heavy rains this summer and fall caused sewer bills to skyrocket from excess runoff.
In September, the board voted to transfer $30,000 from a CD account to cover the costs of a depleted sewer fund.
Long told the board they could raise the rates now to cover the catch up costs and then raise the rates again in April to offset the Richmond increase, or they could raise the rates altogether right now.
The new rates would go to $20.92 for the initial thousand gallons and $13.05 for each additional thousand gallons. If the city only raised the rates to catch up, the difference would be $0.40 less per thousand gallons.
Some residents on hand weighed in on the discussion. Resident Phillip Wilkinson said nobody wants to pay more for services, but said one increase would be better than two just months apart.
“Raise it now, because you’ve already lost so much money,” Wilkinson said. “I don’t like it. Nobody likes it.”
Long said the city in the past has almost had a frugal approach to raising rates and some aldermen agreed.
“It’s not only not been easy. It’s not been done,” Alderman Randy Russell said. “Nobody likes it, but it has to be done.”
The board will vote on the increase next month but came to a consensus to do so. When approved, the new rates will go into effect in January.
The boards also voted to include a 4 percent yearly cost of living increase every year to keep up. Long said the city is also behind in rates when it comes to obtaining grant money. Long said the city will get closer but is still about $10 behind where Mid America Regional Council Grant Writer Molly McGovern said the city should be.
“We are not there,” Long said. “We have to show payback, but we are close.”