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Davenport council OKs sewer rate increase

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Davenport sewer customers will see their rates go up next year — and for several years to follow — but now will have the comfort of knowing the city will pick up most of the tab if the pipes leading from their homes to the main line sewer collapse.

On two 9-1 votes, aldermen approved the rate hike and enacted a new sewer lateral repair program at Wednesday’s city council meeting. Fourth Ward Alderman Ray Ambrose voted “no” on both items.

The hike will increase the average residential rate by $4.43 per month and the industrial and commercial rate by just under 20 percent.

Under the long-term sewer capital improvement plan — which is subject to change by future councils and dependent on future capital improvement programs — annual increases over the next 10 years would range from a high of 12 percent after 2011, down to 5 percent at the end of the timeframe.  

In addition to setting rates, the ordinance calls for the city to cover the cost of lateral  sewer collapses that occur anywhere between the intersection with the main sewer pipe under the street and within four feet of the residence’s foundation. Currently, homeowners are responsible for 100 percent of the cost of any non-main line sewer damage if it is on a lateral that carries sewage from the residence to the street. 

A separate resolution was needed to enact the lateral program. The program is available to all sewer customers who live in houses or rental buildings with three or fewer units.

Public Works Director Mike Clarke said all lateral work will be handled by outside contractors at the direction of the city. In addition, there will be a $500 deductible for the work and the amount spent will be capped at $10,000. He also cautioned homeowners that the city will pay only for the sewer collapse and not any other damage done as a result of the repair, including the loss of trees, shrubs, patios, walkways or other items.

Although 7th Ward Alderman Barney Barnhill voted with the majority, he remains skeptical about the wisdom of starting the lateral repair program.

“I’m not in favor of going on private property to fix laterals,” he said. “It’s an added financial burden to the city that is only going to increase every year.”

But several other aldermen said they could not have supported the rate increase without inclusion of the lateral program.

“People are too used to having their taxes and fees raised just to keep the status quo,” said 2nd Ward Alderman Bill Edmond. “This time, we’re at least giving them something back.”

Only one Davenport resident spoke during the discussion period before the sewer rate vote, and he spoke in favor of it.


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