Just in time for grass-growing season, Lawrence city commissioners at their meeting Tuesday will consider increasing water and sewer rates.
Commissioners at their weekly meeting will be asked to approve a new rate plan that would increase rates by about 6 percent for the typical residential customer.
The plan also calls for similar annual increases through 2017, but future commissions will have to approve those increases before they take effect.
Commissioners on Tuesday will be urged by staff members to approve the 2013 rates, which are slated to help pay for everything from a new sewage treatment plant to new equipment to help alleviate taste and odor issues with the city’s drinking water.
“We think what we’re asking for is real important to serve the community not just today, but into the future,” said Dave Wagner, director of the city’s utilities department.
But the improvements will require a different mindset on water and sewer rates for the future. Since 2008, the water and sewer bill of an average residential user has increased about 2.5 percent per year, according to data from the city. The rate plan currently being proposed calls for annual increases that average about 5.7 percent per year between now and 2017.
Here’s a look at some of the projects the proposed rate increases would fund between now and 2017:
• About $63 million for a new sewage treatment plant south of the Wakarusa River. The plant is designed partly to provide the community the ability to accommodate more growth in coming decades, but also is needed to take pressure off the city’s current treatment plant during wet weather events. The city’s current plant is drawing scrutiny from the Environmental Protection Agency on how it functions during heavy rains.
If the rates are approved, the city would spend about $6.3 million this year to begin preliminary work on the project. The plant would be functional in 2018.
• $19.3 million to make improvements to the city’s two water treatment plants designed to help control occasional taste and odor problems. The city, however, doesn’t yet have a clear plan on what equipment will need to be added. The city is set to hire an engineering firm to create a set of options.
• $4.7 million to add a new water intake to the city’s Kaw Water Treatment plant. The city’s oldest water treatment plant has had one intake in the river fail, and the one remaining intake for the plant has experienced problems caused by Kansas River sand in the past.
• $7.8 million to extend a water main across the Kansas River to North Lawrence. Currently, North Lawrence only has one main pipe supplying treated water to the area. This project would provide a second source of water to the area.
• $12.6 million to replace aging water lines in the city.
• $13.4 million to improve existing sewer lines so they don’t take on so much water when it rains.
• $3.9 million to replace the aging water tanks near the top of Mount Oread. The tanks are just north of the Adams Alumni Center, and Wagner said the university does have an interest in future development of the property. Wagner said the city will study whether the city and KU could make a land swap that would allow the tanks to be built elsewhere, although he said that may not be feasible from an engineering standpoint.
City commissioners are scheduled to discuss the rate increase and related utility projects at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.