Sewer rates for Cleveland Heights residents is expected to quadruple, as mandated by the EPA, but some residents can take advantage of affordability programs and special transitional credits that are available.
Homestead Exemptions will provide Cleveland Water credits to some residents.
A local resident, who qualifies for the Homestead Exemption, brought up the issue at a City Council meeting. The resident complained of sharply higher water and sewer rates.
The resident was told that the higher rate was part of the Consent Decree with the EPA to raise $12 million for violations of the Clean Water Act. He was told he would be charged a “transition fee” for five years to pay for the deficit when the city was buying water from Cleveland.
Tanisha Briley, City Manager, said to the resident, “This is a serious issue that was brought to our attention, in that the ‘transition rate’ should take into consideration the Homestead Exemption.”
Due to the oversight, those who qualify for the Homestead Exemption will receive a credit from last year.
The Homestead Program provides lower rates to residents who are: aged 65 or older, or permanently disabled; have a household income of less than $33,000; own and live on their property.
Those who don’t qualify for the program may be able to enroll in the Affordability Program. This program provides a 40% discount on local sewer charges for residents who live on the property and have income at or below 200% of the poverty level.
Residents cannot be enrolled in both programs.
Higher sewer rates come as Cleveland and other cities in the state perform sewer camera inspections and work to improve their aging sewer systems.
In Lakewood, the City Council approved sewer and water rate increases that will go into effect this year. Sewer rates will increase by 10%, while water rates will increase by 5%.
Mayor Mike Summers explained that because the city runs its own sewer and water systems, the rate increases are necessary to cover the cost of improvement and operation.
City Council President Sam O’Leary also noted that the city’s sewer and water system dates back to the early 20th century.
Along with improving infrastructure, the city will also move forward with a $25 million high-rate treatment facility. Currently, the city’s system discharges untreated sewage into the lake during heavy rain storms.
Summers said that if improvements aren’t made now, the city will fall so far behind that they “won’t be able to afford to have any integrity to these two very important systems.”
The rate increases will fund approximately $11.6 million in repairs and $4.8 million water main replacements. Water main replacements are planned for Atkins Avenue, Athens Avenue, Lewis Avenue, Hathaway Avenue, Waterbury Road and Sylvan Avenue.
In Shaker Heights, a $1 million sewer replacement project disrupted traffic patterns on Larchmere Boulevard. Crews were digging at the intersection for most of January to install larger pipes, which will alleviate basement flooding. Digging should wrap up soon, after which the project should move smoothly as crews finish the project.