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Portage exploring sewer rate hike

Portage City Hall
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Portage City Hall

Portage's sewer rate may soon be going up.

Sanitary Superintendent Tracie Marshall says Portage's rate is currently one of the lowest in the state. "We haven't had a raise in a long time," Marshall told the city council Tuesday. "It's been a very long time that we've had a significant raise. We've always had three-percent kicker which gives the sanitary [department] 50 cents."

The wastewater plant is currently getting major upgrades, including the replacement of clarifiers and the installation of solar panels.

But Marshall said there's still more work to be done. "We're talking pipes that run through here that were bringing the sanitary to us, that we had a collapse just a couple weeks ago," Marshall said. "It's going to be a quarter of a million dollars for that collapse."

A pipe lining project could extend pipes' life span, but that can also be expensive.

Still, Mayor Austin Bonta said the city has also been looking for ways to save money whenever possible, pointing to the recent changes to trash and recycling pickup. "And so for us, it's a bit of a matter of keeping up," Bonta noted. "Not keeping up by comparison [to other communities], but keeping up with the fact that residents do expect their toilet to work when they flush it, and residents do expect the pipes to be safe on their street."

Bonta also wants to implement a sanitary impact fee on new construction. "If you've got a new development, that development should be paying for itself when it comes to how it impacts the city because it's just not fair to residents, in my opinion, to say, 'Hey, we're going to take your money to pay for somebody else's sewer hookup, but we have to leave your pipes on your street the way they are,'" Bonta said.

The city has commissioned a rate study. The sanitary board will consider an initial resolution on the rate hike Thursday. The issue will then go back to the city council for further discussion.

Michael Gallenberger is a news reporter and producer that hosts All Things Considered on 89.1 FM | Lakeshore Public Media.