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Sewer Rate Hike Proposed For Final Phase Of Fort Wayne Utility Projects

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Zach Bernard/WBOI News
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A sewer rate hike of roughly $2.39 over each of the next five years could take effect as soon as March for Fort Wayne customers.

In 2008, a court order known as a consent decree demanded the city decrease its overflows into the St. Joseph, St. Marys and Maumee rivers. City utilities responded with a massive $380 million commitment over nearly two-decades to not only come into compliance with the order, but also focus attention on the long-term health of the rivers, and residents themselves.

While the investment has led to various neighborhood improvements as well as the expansion of Fort Wayne’s sewer treatment plant, perhaps the most notable portion is the Three Rivers Protection and Overflow Reduction Tunnel -- a five-year, $188 million project resulting in a more-than-90 percent reduction in the amount of combined sewer overflow going into the rivers.

The rate hike has been part of the plan since the very beginning, and would happen annually over five years. As a result, a customer paying $43 per month now would be paying $53 per month by 2024.

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Credit Fort Wayne City Utilities
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According to city utilities director Kumar Menon, the proposed hike is significantly lower than what was initially projected 12 years ago.

“Most other cities have been increasing rates every year; we’ve been able to skip two years because of better planning, more aggressive marketing of projects, and asking for better bids from construction companies," Menon said. "And all of that adds to a better value for our customers.”

Residents will have an opportunity to chime and offer their thoughts on the hike during three public meetings over the next three Thursday evenings:

  • January 30, 2020 @ 6:00 pm
    Omni Room in the basement of Citizens Square
    200 East Berry Street
     
  • February 6, 2020 @ 6:00 pm
    Bishop Luers High School – Media Center
    333 East Paulding Road – Enter Door #1
     
  • February 13, 2020 @ 6:00 pm
    Omni Room in the basement of Citizens Square
    200 East Berry Street

City utilities’ plans for complying with the consent decree were set to be completed by 2025, and the rate hike is one of the final steps to crossing the finish line.
Additionally, projects like the continued riverfront development in addition to the completion of the overflow reduction tunnel will round out the remainder of the department’s efforts related to the consent decree.

Zach joined 89.1 WBOI as a reporter and local host for All Things Considered. He currently hosts Morning Edition.