MSD approves a nearly 7 percent rate hike, says more funds needed to fix problems
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Metropolitan Sewer District Board approved a 6.9 percent rate increase Monday -- the maximum allowed without approval from Metro Council -- but MSD officials said it is not nearly enough to repair what’s wrong underground.
On Sunday, part of a 96-inch brick sewer line built in 1866 collapsed, forcing the closure of a section of East Broadway. MSD Construction Manager Robert Stauble told WDRB News, these kinds of emergencies are keeping his crews increasingly busy.
“We have several cave-ins on a regular basis. Many of them are large-scale and a lot of time and effort and, of course, funds,” he said.
MSD officials said the gaping hole left behind by the cave-in on East Broadway is a result of the gaping hole in its budget.
The agency is spending nearly a billion dollars to comply with a federal order to prevent sewage from flowing into the Ohio River.
MSD said that leaves little spending room to get out front of the city's aging and crumbling infrastructure.
“I hope we do not have a school bus fall in one of these cave-ins,” said Metro Council member Barbara Sexton Smith.
Smith, a Democrat whose district includes downtown Louisville, sponsored an ordinance allowing MSD to raise its rates by 10 percent. But it failed to gain council support.
“I know that's a lot of money," Smith said. "I understand that. But think about the consequences if we don't do this."
Stephen Haag, director of the Metro Council’s Republican Minority Caucus, said his members understand the problem, but question MSD's spending practices and priorities.
“There's concern over the management as well as what will be done with the money,” said Haag.
As the MSD board approved the 6.9 percent rate increase, which was more than three percent less than it wanted, one member warned about the ticking time bomb beneath the streets of Louisville.
“Nobody likes rate increases,” said J.T. Sims. “But it's just a matter of time. It's not a matter of if, we're going to have a problem - a serious problem.”
MSD said the rate hike means the average household bill will increase by $3.80 a month. The new rates take effect Aug. 1.
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