By: Mayor Eileen Bulan
This week I wish to explain the unavoidable need for an increase in our water rates. It is critical that Vermilion continue these services and we must generate the necessary funds to do so.
The City of Vermilion water and sewer funds are called enterprise funds and that means that they should be self-sustaining through utility rates. In the last two years, the City has already been forced to raise our sewer rates because of the EPA mandates. At the same time, there have been concerns about all the water systems along the coastal communities. The Ohio EPA has been inspecting our water plant and set out a list of improvements that must be made at our plant and to our water lines. We have moved forward with many of these improvements and had to spend the reserves in our water fund in order to accomplish these tasks.
The City had a water rate study completed in 2012 by CT Consultants which recommended rate increases. We thought we might be able to avoid these rate increases. It is very difficult to raise these rates for our citizens. We now realize that these rate increases cannot be avoided. We must respond to all the EPA mandates required to keep our water plant safe and operational.
Our water plant was built in 1904. Many of our distribution lines, especially in the older areas of the City need to be replaced. The EPA has pointed out that we must bring our system up-to-date. At the same time, we entered into a study with the City of Huron and Erie County to look at a regional water system. This study is on-going and a very big decision to make for our City. City Council presently has put this very big decision on hold until we have our water intake line to Lake Erie inspected. The EPA is telling us we may have to replace this line depending on its condition, which will be determined once we receive the inspection report. After we receive that report, City Council will be better able to make a decision. At the same time, we have also contacted the City of Lorain about partnering with them for water service.
The laws of the City are such that the Director of Public Service controls the water rates. The water rates will be will increased by $2.00 per CCF (per hundred cubic feet), and an additional $2.00 EPA fee for all the improvements that are needed.
Unfortunately, we have no choice at this time but to raise the rates to continue this vital service. No one likes to see a rate increase. We all struggle with our budgets and to find ways to cut costs. The City is no different. The city must take in enough money to operate these services, while we will also reduce expenses to the greatest extent possible.
Please be assured that we are addressing all the issues with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and we are still producing excellent water for our citizens. We will continue to work with the EPA to address their concerns and will continue to produce quality water for the citizens of Vermilion.