Looking inside the MSD rate hike

Looking inside the MSD rate hike
Beverly Sims (Source: Michael Williams, WAVE 3 News)
Beverly Sims (Source: Michael Williams, WAVE 3 News)
Amy Rutherford (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Amy Rutherford (Source: WAVE 3 News)
James A. "Tony" Parrott (Source: Michael Williams, WAVE 3 News)
James A. "Tony" Parrott (Source: Michael Williams, WAVE 3 News)
Eric Effinger (Source: Michael Williams, WAVE 3 News)
Eric Effinger (Source: Michael Williams, WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The Metropolitan Sewer District has taken 5 1/2 percent hikes every year. This year, MSD wants a 20 percent increase - the largest in almost a decade. The rate hike, which would need approval from the Louisville Metro Council, had us questioning what the money will pay for and how much your bill would go up.

The Chamber of Commerce couldn't have wished for a sunnier Monday on Elba Drive.

"She loves the neighborhood, loves it," said Beverly Sims of her older daughter, Amy Rutherford, who operates a foster home for five children.

Sims was pushing her own newly-adopted daughter, Gracie, in a stroller when we caught up with her. To see Rutherford's home now, you'd not know what hit in mid-October 2013. Only three weeks after moving in Beargrass Creek overflowed its banks.

"We had all our stuff in the basement," Rutherford told us then. "It's gone. I don't care about the stuff. It's the three-year-old who underwent a lot of abuse. He finally found a stable home, and now he's out because the storm freaked him out."

Rutherford said she would move if she could.

"If she could just get what she paid for the house, she'd be happy," Sims said.

Help could be coming in the Metropolitan Sewer District's proposed $1.056 billion improvement program for which the agency is seeking a 20 percent rate increase. MSD managers say the average customer's bill would rise about $9.82 per month or about $107-$110 per year.

The breakdown:

  • $271.2 million wastewater system
  • $471.2 million consent decree
  • $164.9 million stormwater
  • $95.8 million Ohio River flooding
  • $51.9 million support-system repairs & improvements

"This gets us to the middle of our (20-year) Facilities Plan recommendations," said James A. 'Tony' Parrott, MSD executive director, to MSD board members Monday afternoon. "The further we get away from it,  it minimizes our ability to take advantage of those FEMA grants and there will be no quick-buy assistance program."

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MSD has set aside about $14 million for the quick-buyout program to qualify for federal matching dollars.

The staff's proposals sailed through MSD's Finance Committee and full Board. The only members of the public to speak. All backed it.

"I've had flood losses to the tune of $35,000 not covered by insurance," said Eric Effinger, a Hurstbourne resident who experienced Louisiana's hurricane floods prior to his move north. "There will be more development in our area, and runoff. Obviously, we support the rate increase."

A 20 percent rate increase would be MSD's largest since 2007. Mayor Greg Fischer has asked MSD for additional information.

"It would immediately and significantly impact families and households across our city," Fischer's written statement said. "We need to have more community conversations, about Louisville's many needs."

MSD proposes to double its assistance fund for fixed-income customers to $2 million, Parrott said. "We'll also be conducting more waste audits."

Prospect Mayor John Evans supports MSD's assertion that paying more now beats risking a catastrophic loss or cost later.

"My bill right now is $200 every other month and it's just me and (his wife) Sally," Evans said. "So if it goes up another $20 or $30, I'll just have to make that up."

The cost would be "more than worth it, if we could assure that things would be fixed," Sims said.

MSD says it would double the assistance fund for seniors and others on fixed incomes to $2 million and do more waste audits too.

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