Sewer Use Fees to Rise for Separation Project

Get ready to see an increase on your MUD bill. Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert has announced a plan that would raise our sewer use fees approximately 45 percent over the next four years.

The ordinance would set rates through 2018. The revenue would go to cover our massive sewer separation project.

It's federally mandated work. The city plans to finish by 2027.

We have been warned about a big hike in our sewer fees for years to cover the cost of this project. Now the cost is coming into focus.

The mayor has unveiled the rate schedule she'll be forwarding to the city council for debate. The rate increases by 13-percent next year and then nine-percent each year through 2018.

What this means is the average residential customer who pays $35 a month in sewer fees this year will be paying $51 a month in 2018.

The mayor says the rates are better than originally planned because of cost savings.

You can find one of the cost-savers at Elmwood Park. There are native grasses next to the golf course and this is where the city saved hundreds of thousands of dollars with a creative solution.

Engineers went to the state with the idea. They built staircases in a ravine to slow down rain water so it can be absorbed into the ground. That keeps it from overwhelming the creek and backing up into people's homes. By doing this, crews didn't have to dig up as many streets to the south.

We're three years into a project that's supposed to be done in the year 2027. The aim is to fix the sewers in the eastern part of Omaha so heavy rains don't clog the system and force sewage into people's basements.

When the sewers were built in the 1900s, they were state-of-the-art, but that’s no longer the case. That’s why crews are often putting in one set of pipes for rainwater and another set for our bathrooms.

The federal government ordered Omaha to comply because the water we're treating and then putting into the Missouri River isn't clean enough yet.

Mayor Stothert says the city has been able to get some cost savings over the years but the $2 billion bill is hard to put on the citizens after 2018.

“It's going to cause widespread hardship on the citizens of Omaha,” she said. “That's why we're going to take our case to the state and make our case that we have reached that point. Once we get there, we need to do something different."

What that is exactly, is hard to say. Right now, customer rate increases are expected to grow nine-percent every year after 2018.

The mayor said other cities that have not complied with the federal mandate have been sued, paid the fine and then had to do the project anyway.

If you have opinions about all this, you’ll get a chance to have them heard. The rates come before the city council for a public hearing on July 15th.

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