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News covering policy and issues related to city and county governments in the Ozarks.

Sewer, Water, and Gas Rates Go Up Next Year for Springfield Citizens

SGF CityView

Springfield citizens will, on average, pay around five percent more for utilities beginning next summer.

City Council last month approved rate increases for sewer, water and gas.

These increases will ultimately cost around $1.50 more a month, which officials say will help pay for mandated upgrades to the sewer system. According to Steve Meyer, the city’s director of Environmental Services, the increase is lower than what was previously being considered.

“We have worked diligently with the Department of Natural Resources to develop a plan that is affordable for Springfield citizens, and yet still good for the environment,” Meyer told the council on November 14th.

The bill repeals existing rate schedules, and establishes new on an annually basis for three years beginning July 1st, 2017. This is to ensure that the City of Springfield will have the necessary funds for the cost of complying with the Clean Water Act and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources Mandates, says Meyer.

These rates are scheduled to change every three years according to the Environmental Services Consent Decree. But Meyer stated that citizens can conserve water to save money in the long run.

The Environmental Services Department has a goal to become energy neutral and to keep rates low moving forward.

Meyer said that “the solid waste division will be energy positive in 2018 due to the Gas Energy Project. All revenues at the landfill will more than offset our energy use.”

He also described how the Southwest Treatment plant is trying to become energy efficient. This plan includes a new Digest Project that will save the city $1.1 million a year and a solar project.

Joel Alexander, communications manager for City Utilities, says the two other increases for natural gas and water go into effect in October 2017.

“The increases are needed for just operational and maintenance of the infrastructure of gas mains and water mains,” he tells KSMU.

Both gas and water rates will increase annually through 2020. For the gas system, there will be one, 4 percent increase in 2017 followed by a 2 percent increase in years 2018 and 2019. Water rates will increase a bit differently, each year at around 4 percent.

Ray Ross, director of Pricing and Forecasting for CU, told council last month the combined rates will equal $6 more a month by 2020 for the average citizen. Combined with the sewer rate increase, on average this will be about a $10-$12 increase on the total bill.

“We are very careful when the time comes to adjust rates, and it’s a very deliberate and careful process that roots in our planning process,” says Ross.

In essence, each of these increases has been put into place so that it will enable the gas and water systems to cover its costs.

According to Ross, “It’s important that each of these individual utility systems cover their own costs, because the real consequences of them not covering their own costs simply means that projects in the other areas are not done to fund and support some of these critical infrastructure items.”

Alexander adds, “We realize that it’s never a good time to ask for a rate increase, but we look at everything we have going on within the system and renewing and upgrading the infrastructure of natural gas and water is something we have to stay on top of.”