Technical meetings, public hearings set by MSD on proposed rate hikes

District proposing rate hikes for wastewater, stormwater


Now that the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District has recommended rate increases to go into effect next year, its Rate Commission and the public will have multiple chances to discuss the proposal.

The sewer district has scheduled nine technical meetings from April 19 to June 1 with the Rate Commission and five public hearings in June to further study the rate-hike proposals for both wastewater and stormwater services.

MSD Public Affairs Specialist Lance LeComb said that any changes to the proposed rate increases would not come until after the Rate Commission has fully exhausted its study.

“There won’t be any changes made to the proposal until the commission has gone through the entire process,” LeComb said. “The changes that would or potentially be made would come out at the end and be reflected in their report, which is submitted to the Board of Trustees.”

The Rate Commission and MSD officials will participate in three 9 a.m. technical conferences April 19, April 20 and April 23 at the Richmond Heights Community Center. Six 8:30 a.m. technical conferences will take place May 9, May 10, May 11, May 30 and May 31 and June 1 in the County Council Chambers in Clayton.

LeComb likened these technical conferences to a trial-type setting, in which Rate Commission members and MSD officials would debate the merits of specific rate proposals.

“The technical sessions are really all-day-type situations where the details of the rates are all hashed out,” LeComb said. “That’s where there’s going to be an almost trial-like atmosphere with everything. And then the public hearings, obviously, are for the public to give a comment. And there will be rate commissioners available at each one of those meetings.”

Those public hearings are scheduled as follows: 7 p.m. June 7 at the Engineers Club of St. Louis, 9 a.m. June 9 at the Cliff Cave Branch County Library, 7 p.m. June 12 at the Herbert Hoover Boys’ & Girls’ Club, 6 p.m. June 13 at the Florissant Valley Branch Library and 6 p.m. June 14 at the Chesterfield Council Chambers.

While the district has reserved these five public hearings for public comment, the public also can provide input at three of the nine technical conferences. District officials invite anyone who would be affected by the proposed rate change to “submit an application to intervene in the proceedings established by the Commission to consider the proposed rate change” by April 6.

Those applicants also will have a chance to provide more feedback on the rate proposals at a prehearing conference “for the purpose of identifying any issues raised by the prepared testimony in connection with the proposed rate change.”

That session will be at 8:30 a.m. June 11 at MSD offices.

As proposed, district customers’ rate for both stormwater and wastewater services would be raised to pay for future projects needed by the district.

Instead of a 24-cent monthly flat fee paid by all district customers for stormwater service, the district would go to a system based on the amount of impervious — or non-absorbent— property on an owner’s lot. Impervious property includes non-absorbent property like driveways, roofs, garages and parking lots.

The proposal calls for the district to begin charging 12 cents for each 100 square feet of impervious property and then gradually raise that level in increments to 19 cents per 100 square feet of non-absorbent land by July 1, 2011. The average residential customer then would pay $4.76 per month for stormwater service, according to the district.

MSD also has proposed a 64-percent increase in wastewater-service rates. That 64-percent rate hike would be done in in-cremental increases from January at the earliest through 2012.

As proposed, the average MSD customer would go from paying $22.38 per month for sewer service to $36.79 per month by the district’s 2012 fiscal year, which begins on July 1, 2011.

The sewer district has proposed the rate increases to fund existing and future needs for projects.

MSD Board of Trustees Chairman Dee Joyce-Hayes has said raising rates on MSD’s terms would be more customer-friendly than being forced to raise them due to government regulation if needed projects are not addressed.

At the Board of Trustees’ Feb. 8 meeting, district officials heard opposition to the proposed rate increases from representatives of the Missouri Growth Association and a handful of levee districts.

Husch and Eppenberger attorney JoAnn Sandifer, who represents the levee districts of Monarch-Chesterfield, Earth City, How-ard Bend and Riverport, said residents in those districts would be unfairly charged for proposed stormwater-service rates because they do not receive that service from MSD.

Stormwater from those levee districts flows directly into the Missouri River.

MSD Executive Director Jeff Theerman said he is confident that residents in those levee districts are currently charged for MSD’s flat stormwater-service rate of 24 cents per month.

LeComb said that MSD officials have heard concerns and answered questions about the proposed rate increases from various local groups, including the Missouri Growth Association, levee districts, the Regional Business Council, neighborhood groups and numerous cities.

Rate Commission members will study an exhibit document being assembled by MSD officials that LeComb said provide an in-depth analysis and justification for the rate increases.

“It’s actually the underpinning for the basis of the monies that we are requesting as part of the rate increase and the monies that we have raised to change the way that we are raising the stormwater fund,” LeComb said. “It serves as, number one, the underlying basis for that — be it a regulatory basis or a need-for-service basis. It lays out the narrative of that. And it also gets into facts and figures like how much money are you asking for? Why are you asking for this? If you’re asking for this money to fund projects A, B and C, how are the dollars going to be allocated to each of those services? How did you calculate that? What is your basis for using the methods that you used in calculating that? Is there a precedent for this elsewhere? Is this an original concept that the district has come up with on its own?

“Those types of things that really get very detailed. A lot of it will be facts and figures and numbers in terms of how these dollars are being projected out, their use and how we intend to spend that money and the impacts it would have upon different rate classes in our customer base. There’s several different rate classes that we have — be it family, multifamily, businesses, different types of commercial rate classes, those types of things. It shows the impact on each of those as well,” he said.