Hillsboro residents are poised to see permanent relief from long-scheduled water and sewer rate hikes, with city council set to repeal the legislation that put the automatic increases in place when it meets on Monday.
The move comes after two straight years of moratoriums on the rate hikes that were first recommended by the Hastings administration in 2014.
Rebecca Wilkin’s Utilities Committee, including members Bill Alexander and Tracy Aranyos, studied the issue and ultimately recommended that the increases be permanently abandoned. A series of 30-day moratoriums have been approved by council while legislation was being prepared to kill the increases entirely.
A council agenda sent Thursday includes an ordinance to repeal the increases. The ordinance is written as an emergency and will likely be approved Monday evening.
At scheduled increases of 3.5 percent each year, water and sewer bills would be more than 10 percent higher today if the moratoriums had not been enacted beginning in 2014.
If a future water-sewer increase is needed, council would address it as a new, separate action, not as part of the current schedule, committee members agreed.
The currently-scheduled annual rate increases began when city council, in 2008, approved rate hikes to be triggered each September through 2016. The increases were part of a schedule coordinated by the Regional Community Assistance Program (RCAP) to make sure the city could meet the obligations of loans connected to the new water treatment plant.
But in 2014, the Hastings administration recommended the first moratorium on the scheduled hikes. Council unanimously agreed to the moratorium after the Utilities Committee had also studied the issue.
Earlier, in September 2013, Todd Wilkin, the former safety and service director, said he received an email from Lou Mascari, district representative of the Ohio Public Works Commission, notifying Wilkin that the city had never collected on OPWC funding awarded back in 2008 and 2009, which included a combination of grants and zero-percent interest loans.
“In 2008, Hillsboro applied for and received from the OPWC funding for a project named ‘Replacement of Sanitary Sewer Infrastructure,’” wrote Mascari, adding, “In 2009, Hillsboro applied for and received from OPWC funding for a project named ‘WWTP Expansion/By-Pass Elimination.’”
Mayor Drew Hastings told council in September 2013 that he was “exploring possibly lowering the water and sewer bills for the citizens,” The Times-Gazette reported. With the additional funds the city learned was coming its way, the loan amount to Hillsboro from the OWPCLF dropped from about $10.2 million to about $8.2 million. Those additional funds helped negate the need for the city to continue increasing water and sewer rates.
Monday’s 7 p.m. council meeting will be preceded by a 6 p.m. joint meeting of the Finance Committee and the Property, Maintenance and Restoration Committee, as well as a 6:30 p.m. public hearing to amend the zoning code.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.