Rising sewer rates find many Omahans facing financial ‘hardship’

Joe Jordan | Nebraska Watchdog A 45 percent jump in residential sewer fees over the next four years appears to be just the beginning with more hikes down the road, as Omahans face what’s said to be a highly “widespread” financial burden.

Sewer work in South Omaha. One small leg of the city’s 18-year project

Mayor Jean Stothert on Thursday announced the latest round of proposed rate hikes which now go to the city council for its OK. This year residents are paying $23.45 a month or $281.40 a year. Here’s what’s suggested:

  • 2015: $26.27 per month, $315.24 annually.
  • 2016: $28.50 per month, $342.00 annually.
  • 2017: $30.93 per month, $371.16 annually.
  • 2018: $33.52 per month, $402.24 annually.

According to the mayor one study has concluded that the 2015-18 fee hikes will place some Omahans in “moderate hardship” although funds have been set aside to help those who qualify.

At the same time though the study goes on to paint an even far more dismal future.

“After 2018 it would put Omaha in a higher hardship and eventually there might be widespread high burden within our city,” says Stothert.

The rate hikes are all part of the federal government’s order that the city fix a badly outdated sewer system—in some parts of the city, especially east of 72nd street, sewers carry storm-water and sewage. During heavy rain untreated sewage gets dumped into the Missouri River and Papillion Creek.

The EPA’s mandate comes with an estimated $2 billion price-tag on Omaha consumers and threats of huge fines if the city does not comply.

Stothert tells Nebraska Watchdog’s Joe Jordan (see video below) there’s no fighting the feds, adding other cities have tried and failed, regardless of the potential “hardship.”

Contact Joe Jordan at joe@nebraskawatchdog.org.

Joe can be heard on Omaha’s KFAB radio every Monday at 7:40 a.m. and KHAS-AM in Hastings every Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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