Middlesboro garbage, sewer rates to increase

Published 3:27 pm Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Residents in Middlesboro can expect another increase in their utility bills in the upcoming months. The first increase will a garbage bill increase of $14 followed by an increase to residents’ sewage bill.

“About six weeks ago, we talked about two issues that we had,” Middlesboro Mayor Rick Nelson explained. “We talked about $160,000 garbage bill, and we didn’t want to but we had to increase the rates to $14. That will start in the month of April.”

Mayor Nelson also discussed the several issues with the city’s sewer.

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“We have sewer issues at the plant that was built in 1985, and we’ve got sewer issues with the pipes that go throughout the city,” he explained. “There’s about 50 miles of sewer pipes and most of them are original from when they were first put in many years ago.”

Nelson explained that those pipes are made of clay and are leaking. This is one reason why water bubbles out of some the man holes and various locations throughout the city during heavy rain.

“The sewer plant cannot take the sewage plus the rain water,” he said. “So, we’ve got about 15 or 20 million dollars’ worth of needs, and as I mentioned, we are looking at having to raise the sewer rates a little bit.”

The money that will go from the increase in the sewer bill will go to several phases or repair and construction on the sewer plant.

“The first couple of phases will be $2.5 million, and they will repair the motors and gears that make it possible to treat the sewage,” Nelson said. “Then we will start a phase where we are going to go out in the community and replace sewer lines and maybe put in a couple of pump stations.”

He explains that they don’t want to raise the rates because he knows that so many other utilities are on the rise, but the money is needed in order to the repair the problems they are currently experiencing.

A special-called meeting was held just two weeks ago where the increase in garbage rates was discussed and only a handful of citizens made it out to voice their concerns. Nelson said he believes that it is because he and the council have been up front and honest about the needs that citizens understand what is going on.

“If they can see what the money is going to and on the sewage rates, they are still at $3.34 for 1,000 gallons, that’s exactly what it was in 1985,” he said. “It’s never been increased, and there has never been a lot of money put into the sewer plant or the lines.”

Nelson said that the increase will cost each family approximately $10 more per month.

“It won’t be as high as Pineville’s is, or Williamsburg, Barbourville, or even Harlan’s is,” he said. “But it will be enough so that when we do projects, we have the money to pay a payment on a bond.”

He explained that the city is still working on their audits and that getting those completed plays into the big picture.

“We have to raise money because it’s going to be tough on us to get loans until we get our audits paid,” he said. “I just want to let the folks know that we don’t like to raise the sewer rates, but we are going to have to and we will keep you informed every step of the way.”

The mayor said the public education sessions will be to let the community know what the issue is.

“We hope they understand that we are going to try to get this problem resolved,” he explained. “We do have a seven point plan that’s going to spend about $10 million over the next seven or eight years.”