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Village Raises Sewer Rates to Fund Repairs

October's water bills are expected to reflect the increases for some 2,500 customers.

Mount Kisco water bills will rise next month by about 1 to 1½ percent, the result of hikes in sewer rates to pay for state-mandated system repairs.

Increases of roughly 7 to 12 percent—limited to sewer, not water, charges and approved this week by the village board—will appear in October’s consolidated bills. Property owners are billed twice a year for water and sewers, with the size of both utility charges pegged to the volume of water use.

“It’s very important for the public to understand we’re not talking about increasing the water rate at all . . . just the sewer rate,” village manager James Palmer said in outlining the new fees at a board meeting Tuesday. The village has about 2,500 sewer accounts, he said, most of them residential.

The increased fees are earmarked to pay off 25-year serial bonds approved by the village board earlier this summer. The bonds, which are financing $1.5 million in repairs on part of the village’s 75 miles of aging lines, will require an estimated $92,000 a year in additional sewer fees to meet debt-service obligations. Palmer said some of the sewer lines had suffered what he called “significant infiltration.”

“We have old sewer lines in the village,” Mayor J. Michael Cindrich acknowledged Tuesday, before the board unanimously voted the rate increase. Since sewer lines, unlike water lines, are not pressurized, he pointed out, “if the ground fills up with water . . . it’s going to take the path of least resistance, and if that leads to a hole in the sewer line, it’s going to infiltrate.”

Recalling an earlier era, the mayor said, “If we had a photograph of how some of the sewer lines were constructed 75 years ago, we’d be horrified.” Still, he said, “they work.”

“We have a wooden sewer line that’s operating as efficiently as any sewer line in Westchester County,” the mayor observed.

The sewers under repair, once owned by New York City, run beneath wetlands near the Saw Mill pump station and face problems associated with aging infrastructure. Under a 2006 state Department of Environmental Conservation edict, the village was required to reduce inflow and infiltration into its sewers. After studying the problem and identifying its source, village officials drew plans to reline 20,000 linear feet of pipe to correct it.

Sewers remain a fractional component of the village’s water-use charge. A typical residential customer, for example, uses some 7,000 cubic feet of water a year, Palmer said, and pays $488.81, along with a $30 meter service fee. In the new bills, those charges remain unchanged. The sewer fee—across the board, it is generally calculated at less than a fifth of the water charge—was $88.20 but will rise to $94.36, a 6.7 percent increase in the annual rate. Commercial users of the system would see similar jumps. At a 40,000-cubic-foot volume of use, the commercial customer would see the rate go from $563.94 to $608.50, a 7.9 percent hike.

The new fees directly feed the village’s sewer fund, which now stands at $995,050, Palmer said. “The sewer fund, like the water fund, is not supported by the general fund,” he said. “It is an independent enterprise and it’s supported by these fees.”  

 

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