Garbage, sewer bills to increase in Middlesboro

Published 4:58 pm Thursday, January 31, 2019

If you live in the City of Middlesboro, you could see an increase soon in both your garbage and sewer rates. The exact timeline on when that can happen is yet to be determined as committee members on the Middlesboro City Council work through proposals.

“One of the things we found out when we first got into the office is that over the last several years, our city was not receiving enough on garbage rates to pay the bills,” Mayor Rick Nelson said. “The garbage service is through Waste Connections and we are at the end of a five-year contract. We are facing a bill that we’ve not been able to take care of at $171,000.”

Nelson said the reason a rate increase is inevitable is because customers are not been being charged enough to cover the costs.

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Sewer rates are also expected to increase due to $1.5 million in repairs needed at the sewer plant.

“Our sewer plant was built in 1985,” Nelson said. “We have been written up by the state of Kentucky and could be fined.”

The current garbage rate for residential customers is $11 per month, Nelson said, with senior citizens charged $9 per month.

Council committees are working now to determine how much those rates will be increased.

“It’s not going to be terrible, but it will be a few more dollars on the month,” he said.

As part of its contract with the city, Waste Connections helps with other services such as “sludge” pick-up from the sewage plant. Also, when citizens put old couches from their homes or limbs and branches from their yards, they are picked up and hauled off.

“It’s a pretty good deal and Waste Connections have been very patient but they have made it pretty clear that they need their money as part of their business operation,” Nelson said.

He said the council isn’t happy about raising rates.

“It’s not money we are going to put in our pockets,” he said. “We are going to have to pay this $171,000 bill off and looking at that, we are going to have public hearings and let people know that that’s coming.”

Work on the sewer plant is already under review.

“We have talked to engineers and we have developed a plan of one-and-a-half million dollars to fix three important elements of the sewer plant,” he said. “Now, just like the water rates, the sewer rates have been the same since 1985 and there has been no increase.”

According to rate sheets, in Middlesboro the average family uses 4,000 gallons of treated sewer and the cost is $13. In Corbin, the charge is $34, and Mt. Vernon charges $27. Closer to Middlesboro, Barbourville charges $30 and Pineville charges $26.

“Our rates haven’t been raised but we are in a situation with the state of Kentucky on us,” Nelson said. “Because we have to do repairs, there’s no choice on them.”

Nelson said Middlesboro will try to get grants to help with repairs, in addition to taking out loans.

“We are going to have to create enough money to pay off low-interest loans and we don’t have that right now,” he said.

He is also concerned with getting an audit completed before applying for the loans.

“We were four or five years behind on the audits and are working on them as fast as we can,” he said. “I’m afraid if we don’t have our audits completed then nobody is going to loan us any money because they don’t know what kind of financial shape we are in.

“In the past, if the administrations had simply raised sewer rates a quarter a year, we’d be sitting here in good shape,” he said. “But no money has been put back into the system and it’s failing, and we sure don’t want the EPA to come in on us.”

Public hearings on the issues will be scheduled and the dates and times released to the public.

Nelson said he feels that the council has been dealing with bad news after bad news.

“It’s our responsibility to deal with it,” he said. “Whether it makes us popular or not, we want to let the people know and we are being up front with this and that we are looking at garbage and sewer rate increases.”

Nelson said he is available to discuss these and other issues with the public through e-mail at or at 606-269-1924.