Reynoldsburg residents will see a hike in sewer rates for 2014, although city officials said water rates will stay the same.
Reynoldsburg City Council members approved a 2-percent hike in sewer rates at their Dec. 9 meeting.
Water Superintendent Mike Root said Columbus sewer rates are going up by 2 percent next year and since Reynoldsburg gets its water and sewer service from Columbus, that rate hike has to be passed on to Reynoldsburg residents.
"It is the lowest rate hike we've had for awhile," he said.
Root said sewer rates went up 4 percent last year and 6.5 percent in 2011.
The higher fees will amount to an increase of 14 cents per 1,000 gallons for sewage service in January. The current sewer rate is $6.78 per 1,000 gallons and the new rate will be $6.92 per 1,000 gallons.
Root said water rates went up 10.5 percent in 2010; 9 percent in 2011; 9.5 percent in 2012 and 5.97 percent in 2013.
"So having a 0-percent increase in water rates is a pretty big deal," he said.
Earlier this year, council passed an ordinance establishing a capital improvements projects (CIP) fee to fund repairs to city water and sewer lines.
The fee added $1.50 to the bills for each 1,000 gallons of water usage. The city began collecting the fee in August.
Service Director Nathan Burd said the average resident uses about 13,000 gallons of water per quarter, so the CIP fee added about $19.50 per quarter, or $6.50 per month, to typical water bills.
He said many of the city's water lines are 50 to 60 years old and have required ongoing repairs. The CIP fee allows the city to replace the old water lines and make repairs to the sewer system that are required by Environmental Protection Agency mandates.
Root said the city has lost about $1 million worth of water over the past two years because of leaks and line breaks.
He said Reynoldsburg and Gahanna are the only two cities in central Ohio that are master-metered but buy water and sewer service from Columbus. In communities such as Hilliard, Grove City and Dublin, Columbus maintains their water lines, fixes breaks and directly bills customers, he said.
City Auditor Richard Harris said the master metering was put in place in the early 1980s.
"It was thought at the time that there would be large expansions to the east of Reynoldsburg," he said. "Even if they were in not in the city, those expansions would have to go through our pipes in order to facilitate any large water need because at the time, there was no Southwest Licking Water and Sewer District."
He said the thinking at the time was that large corporations such as The Limited might not trust anyone but Columbus to provide water and sewer service.
"By us owning the pipes that water would go through and be a master meter, we would be players at that table, regardless," he said. "That was the reason the city stayed a master meter and resisted the opportunity to turn the pipes over to Columbus, because then they would be Columbus pipes and they could do whatever they wanted with them."
Councilwoman Monica DeBrock said in a finance committee meeting Nov. 18 she hopes the community understands that water lines have to be maintained to avoid more millions in water loss.
"The city doesn't have funds to pay for it, so it has to be in the water rates and the CIP," she said. "I'm not sure there was any other way to do it."