By Tyler Fenwick
MARKLEVILLE — The Markleville Town Council voted Monday, Aug. 28, to increase sewer rates for residents, effective immediately.
Under the new ordinance, sewage rates will jump 26 percent: the single-home residential rate rises to $52, duplexes to $69, apartment buildings to $169 and churches to $60. Business rates also increase 26 percent.
The first customer bills to reflect the new rate will be mailed at the end of this month and due in early October.
All property owners now also will be responsible for maintaining the grinder pit, pump, control box and laterals, up to the main line of the sewer utility.
Under a previous arrangement, about half of Markleville sewer customers had been grandfathered into an arrangement in which such repair costs were paid by the sewer utility.
The council voted 2-1, with president Daniel Roseberry and member Matthew Gustin voting for the measure, while member Bob Fesmire voted against it.
Fesmire was joined in expressing doubts by Markleville residents Marcia Prose and Frank Pardini, both of whom lived under the previous arrangement where they did not pay for maintenance on the components leading to the main.
Aside from being upset that she will no longer pay a flat rate of $41 per month with all maintenance included, Prose said she wishes the increased rates could be put toward the debt the town already owes on the sewer system.
Prose was also critical of the council’s decision to keep the sewer technician position, currently held by Doug Tupling.
“If we are getting rid of sewer maintenance, why are we paying his full wages?”
According to Roseberry, the technician’s job will still be necessary moving forward. Even though the technician will still be responsible for things such as emergency calls and troubleshooting, Roseberry does admit that the new ordinance effectively cuts back hours, but that free time could be devoted to other projects.
Pardini voiced similar concerns during the meeting, calling the measure “unfair” to those who were previously grandfathered in.
Roseberry referred to the fact that the sewer department hasn’t seen an increase in fees in 15 years.
“Part of this massive increase is to compensate for the last 15 years to get us back to where we should be,” Roseberry said.
The new ordinance also states that knowingly failing to report an overflow for up to 24 hours could result in up to a $1,000 fine.
Fesmire had voted to approve the first reading of the ordinance at the Aug. 14 meeting but clarified on Monday that, while he supports the increase in fees, he has reservations about the fine.
“That may or may not be reasonable,” said Fesmire. “What if you’re on vacation?”
Roseberry and Gustin said using phrasing such as “up to” a $1,000 fine and “knowingly” failing to report the overflow leaves room for discretion.
“I don’t think the proposal is a great solution,” said Roseberry, “but I just unfortunately think that it’s the best one we currently have on the table.”
Gustin repeatedly told worried residents that they were oversimplifying matters by equating a rate increase and whether a sewer technician position would still be necessary.
“Maybe a lot of people don’t realize how much we pay Fall Creek Regional Waste District every month out of this money,” Gustin said. “This doesn’t just go to the Markleville Sewer Department. We are the highest-paying customer of Fall Creek Regional Waste District. We get rate increases from them regularly. … These rate increases haven’t been passed along to the people of Markleville; they’ve been absorbed. You can only absorb things for so long before you have to address it.”
In other business:
• Police Chief Tim Basey presented a new standard operating procedures manual to the the council. Roseberry said it will be reviewed and the first reading could be at the Monday, Sept. 11, meeting, meaning it could be approved at the Sept. 25 meeting.
• Pardini brought up a concern with personnel at the police department over Facebook posts dating back to February 2015. Roseberry said he’s heard previous similar complaints but said Chief Basey is capable of “coming up with healthy results for the department.”