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Meadowlakes sewer bills to drop by $5

Meadowlakes City Council

The Meadowlakes City Council approved a $5 reduction to residents’ monthly sewer bill during its Dec. 21 meeting. The reduction is possible because of federal pandemic relief funding received by the city. Facebook Live screen capture

Meadowlakes residents will see a $5 reduction on monthly sewer bills beginning Jan. 1, 2022, following a vote during a Dec. 21 City Council meeting. The reduction is possible because of federal pandemic relief funding received by the city.

Rates went up $10 in October 2020 to generate additional income needed for a planned wastewater treatment plant renovation. The increase was temporary, and since then, the need for the money has been mitigated by earmarking a portion of the city’s $422,000 Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to the project, City Manager Johnnie Thompson explained.

Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Funds are federal pandemic relief dollars distributed through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The city received its first installment of the funds late this summer.

Councilor Jerry Drummond first suggested the rate reduction during a Nov. 16 meeting.

The renovation project is scheduled to take place this fiscal year, having been postponed from its original 2020-21 fiscal year timeline. Only in the preliminary stage, the project has not been sent out for bids yet, so total renovation costs are still unknown.

“We’re guessing that the plant renovation itself is probably going to be in that $200,000 range,” Thompson said. “The drying bed improvements and lift station improvements and some of those other things are probably going to be around $100,000.”

As a result, Councilor Jess Lofgreen expressed some hesitancy toward passing the reduction, citing concerns about the unknown total costs for the renovation project.

“I have continued concerns about not having a full understanding of what the sewer renovation project is going to take,” Lofgreen said. “There’s been no indication from our citizens that they’re displeased with the rates the way they are. I’m in favor of the reduction if we can do it, I’m just concerned about the timing.”

Councilor Barbara Peskin asked how the reduction would impact the city budget.

The reduction will result in roughly a $22,000 decrease to city income, Thompson said. The adjustment will be covered by the city’s contingency fund, which was budgeted at $86,000 for the 2021-22 fiscal year.

“Any reduction that you do with regards to reducing the sewer rates will be coming out of that $86,000 and not actually affecting the budget at all,” Thompson said.

The reduction was approved in a 4-1 vote, with Lofgreen dissenting. The city will reevaluate sewer rates once plant renovation costs are known.

Recordings of the Meadowlakes City Council meetings are available on the city’s Facebook page.

brigid@thepicayune.com