Residents question increase in water, sewer bills
Prairie Township residents who currently get their water and sewer services from Franklin County raised questions with township trustees last week about a huge rate increase that went into effect with the current billing cycle.
Residents asked at the trustees' Aug. 22 meeting about the continuing increase of cost in water and sewer services.
"I received a $463.29 bill for a one-bedroom apartment," township resident Bryan Skruck said. "We are paying twice what those residents who use city of Columbus water. We shouldn't have to pay these rates. I was hoping you could help us out."
Trustees are familiar with issues surrounding the cost of water and sewer service in the township. While most of the township is serviced by the city of the Columbus, the board continues to fight on behalf of residents serviced by Aqua Ohio who pay higher-than-average rates.
Last year, Franklin County Commissioners approved a 30-percent increase for water and a 9-percent increase for sewer services. According to a memo sent by Franklin County Sanitary Engineer Stephen Renner, the cost of providing those services has gone up.
The memo stated that in order to provide water and sewer services to residents, Franklin County has to purchase those items from the city of Columbus. According to the memo, rising water and sewer rates instituted by Columbus consequently affected Franklin County's ability to hold rates steady on an annual basis.
In addition, aging infrastructure -- including water lines and meters in sanitary districts administered by the county -- directly increases the cost of bulk water purchased from the city, the memo said. Water loss from delivery lines and inaccurate consumption readings from meters translate into a scenario whereby Franklin County purchases excess water resources from Columbus, which in turn are not delivered or paid for by Franklin County water customers.
"The township as a whole has little it can say when it comes to utilities," trustee Steve Kennedy said. "As a board, we have no say. You need to go to the commissioners who approved the rates."
Kennedy said in his discussions with the county about the rate increase, officials said they are in the process of addressing the issue of water loss and meters, but it is a four-year process.
"They have to buy their water from Columbus and that is 50 percent of the cost," Kennedy said. "The other 50 percent is payroll and infrastructure."
Kennedy offered to forward copies of residents' bills, along with their grievances, to the sanitary engineer's office. Trustees will also try to have the engineer attend a board meeting where residents can ask their questions directly, he said.
"The first step is to let commissioners know," Kennedy said. "They voted for the increase in December of 2011. If you don't get results by phone, then go to one of their meetings."
The next Prairie Township trustees' meeting is slated to take place at 7 p.m. Sept. 5 at 23 Maple Drive.