January 11, 2013
Ryan Scott Ottney
PDT Staff Writer
The village of New Boston is fighting back against a sewer and water rate increase announced by the city of Portsmouth this week.
According to Village Administrator Steve Hamilton, New Boston residents are already paying more of their median household income toward water and sewer rates than residents the city, and are in violation of EPA regulations.
Portsmouth Mayor David Malone said this week that water and sewer rates have each increased 3 percent this year. This after a 9 percent sewer rate increase last year and in 2011, and an 8 percent water increase in 2011. Hamilton said since he took office as Village Administrator in 2009, sewer rates alone have increased 25 percent and resident of the village can’t afford any more hikes.
“What gets me is how one man, the mayor, has all that authority to raise it (sewer rates) 3 percent, when the mayor last year raised it 10 percent,” Hamilton said.
While the dollar rate is the same for all Portsmouth city water users, Hamilton said the median household income is about $7,000 less among residents of New Boston. Since they are earning less, on average, the same dollar rate means a larger percentage of their income than residents of Portsmouth are paying on average.
“The EPA pretty much don’t want anybody paying over 2 percent of their median household income, and now we’re right at 3 percent and Portsmouth is just at 2 percent,” Hamilton said.
He said he has brought the issue to the attention of the Ohio and U.S. EPA, and Village Solicitor Justin Blume is reviewing the case and will send a letter to Portsmouth Solicitor John Haas and Mayor Malone. In 1991, New Boston signed a 30-year contract with Portsmouth agreeing that New Boston would maintain all of the sewer lines that pass through the village and the city would maintain all of the sewer lift stations. The village also agreed in 1991 to receive no revenue from the city sewer rates, and the city agreed that village residents would not pay more than city residents.
Hamilton said New Boston got “the short end of the stick” on that deal. Even though Portsmouth sewers run through New Boston’s lines, he said the village does not collect revenue from the city of Portsmouth and the city has never consulted them before raising water and sewer rates.
“I am flooded with phone calls from people in village who are living on a fixed income and they’re asking should they get their prescriptions or pay their water bill? I’ve got people that are single mothers. Are they going to buy food for their kids or pay their sewer bill?” Hamilton said.
“I can’t even afford it. I’ve got four children, and we’ve got two people working.”
Hamilton complained to the city and the EPA about the rate increase last year, and said he wonders how much more it’s going to be next year. In the meantime, he said the village is considering its options for the year 2021 when their agreement with the city expires.
Ryan Scott Ottney can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or firstname.lastname@example.org.