Wednesday, July 26, 2000

Sewer rate increases opposed

Northern Kentucky group collects petitions in fight against proposal

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WILDER — On Monday, Northern Kentucky residents can comment on a proposed sewer rate hike that would double rates over five years.

        Some residents of Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties argue that the chance to speak against the proposed rate increase is too little too late. Opponents, who say they have collected more than 1,300 signatures of residents opposing the rate increase, have asked the judge-executives of Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties to hold a public hearing in Covington.

        But Jeff Eger, general manager of Sanitation District No. 1, said the public “has had ample opportunity” to address the proposed rate hike through focus groups, meetings and an extended public comment period.

        The three judge-executives will consider the proposed increase when they meet at 6 p.m. Monday at the Marquis Banquet Center off Interstate 275 in Wilder.

        Boone County Judge-executive Gary Moore said he'd consider delaying a vote on the sewer rate hike, if new information is presented that requires further study.

        “I'm willing to take the time and make sure we've covered all the bases before we vote,” Mr. Moore said. “But during the past year and a half, we've been through so many scenarios and investigated so many alternatives that I think it's been a really thorough investigation.”

        Covington resident Barb Cook said she began circulating petitions a week and a half ago after City Commissioner Butch Callery brought the issue to residents' attention.

        “This meeting is at a time when most people are having dinner, and they have to fight rush hour traffic to get there,” Mrs. Cook said. “If they really wanted to hear from the public, they should have held the meeting in Coving ton, Northern Kentucky's largest city. I think (the meeting) should have been a little later, and there should have been a lot more notice.”

        Mr. Callery said he sent a June 19 letter to Kenton Judge-executive Dick Murgatroyd, asking for a public hearing in Covington, when he learned that the sanitation district is not regulated by the Public Service Commission. Mr. Murgatroyd offered to share Mr. Callery's request with the other judges but did not agree to a hearing.

        Mr. Callery followed his letter with a resolution from the Covington City Commission, asking that a hearing on the proposed rate increase be held in Covington.

        Elsmere City Council also adopted its own resolution seeking evening or weekend public hearings on the rate hike, before a vote is taken.

        Although no public hearing is required, Mr. Eger said the three judge-executives moved the time of Monday's previously scheduled meeting back two hours, so that the public could be heard on the proposed rate hike and issues such as the sanitation district's long-range plan for improve ments.

        Mr. Eger said the public has had its chance to comment on the proposed rate hike through four focus groups during the past two years, at the sanitation board meeting in March and at a May hearing at Conner Middle School in Boone County to discuss planned improvements and how to pay for them. He added the sanitation district also sent a special mailing on the proposed rate hike to its 84,000 customers in January.

        In March, after the sanitation board approved its first rate hike since 1979, only 14 people offered their opinion on the rate hike, when the board extended the public comment period from 30 to 60 days, Mr. Eger said.

        “We feel like the public has had an ample opportunity to address these issues,” Mr. Eger said.

        Mr. Callery, who is running for Covington mayor, said that he has fought several electrical rate increases during the past 20 years, and he added he successfully lobbied in the past to have a Public Service Commission hearing held in Covington on a proposed water rate increase.


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