Leaders battle over sanitation bill hike to fix sewer overflows

Kenton County leaders are gearing up for a battle over whether sanitation bills should see a hike to pay for projects that would help fix unsanitary overflows.

"You've got to stand up for the residents you represent," Ft. Mitchell Mayor Chris Wiest told FOX19. "That is what this is all about."

"It's a simple matter of physics that everything goes downhill and Covington is at the bottom of the hill in this watershed," Covington City Manager Larry Klein pointed out.

Two different resolutions will be presented during the monthly Kenton County Mayors' Group meeting Saturday. One resolution will be led by Covington city leaders and another resolution draft is championed by Mayor Wiest.

"Certainly I would hope they put themselves in our situation," Klein urged.

Wiest, who is strongly opposed to a rate increase, maintains his position is not about "us protecting our own".

"How can you support a rate increase from an organization that has wasted and continues to waste so much money?" he questioned.

Covington leaders plan to support a rate increase if it pays for critical overflow prevention projects.

In part, a draft of the resolution yet to be voted on states the Mayors' Group would encourage the SD1 Board of Directors and county judge executives to:

  1. Prioritize the current SD1 budget so that Covington's overflows are immediately addressed.
  2. Enact rate increases as necessary after prioritization in an amount that is limited to what is needed to make improvements that reduce the likelihood of flooding and basement backups.

"With no rate increases for additional debt service, additional projects, there's no new projects to help Covington rate payers," Klein said.

The argument comes down to whether SD1 can pay for projects that would help prevent overflows like Covington saw in 2010 and earlier this month within its budget or whether it will need more money from ratepayers.

"I find it disingenuous for SD1 after the fact when they never planned to address the issue in Covington to come in and say 'Well, it's because we didn't get our rate increases that we can't address our Peaselburg flooding'," Weist said. "They never intended to."

"I disagree," Klein argued. "We've been working on projects since 2010 and a few months ago when it became obvious that there was going to be no rate increases our projects were put on hold."

SD1 says roughly 50 cents from every ratepayer dollar goes to pay off debt; leaving them with little after they pay their bills and other fixed costs.

"I think they do a very good job," Klein maintained. "I think they're very efficient. I think they've spent their money wisely. They have sought federal and state grants where they could to help the ratepayers."

"Before you go to the public and ask for more money I think you have to be responsible with the funds that you're given," Wiest argued.

The meeting will take place at 9 a.m. at the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission  building. SD1 Executive Director David Rager and Kenton County Judge Executive Steve Arlinghaus are expected to attend.

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