Mayor wants sewer rate hike
The proposed increase would double fees for the average household by 2011
Mayor Mufi Hannemann is proposing sewer fee increases that would result in double the monthly charge for an average household in four years.
The Honolulu City Council had approved a schedule in 2005 that will increase sewer fees 10 percent per year for each of the next four years. Hannemann wants to change those pending increases to 25 percent starting July 1, 18 percent per year in each of the next two years and 15 percent the year after that.
Under Hannemann's proposal, the average monthly sewer charge will increase to $90.97 in fiscal year 2011 from the current $45.44. Under the current fee schedule, the average monthly charge would be $66.54 in fiscal year 2011.
"We need to accelerate our repair and maintenance work of our sewers. A graphic example of that was the Waikiki Beachwalk sewer spill," Hannemann said.
The city was forced to dump 48 million gallons of raw sewage into the Ala Canal over six days last March after a 42-inch force main at the Beachwalk Pump Station ruptured. It was the largest sewer spill ever on Oahu. The city was forced to close beaches in Waikiki as some of the sewage washed out to sea and back onto shore.
"Wow, this is pretty high," said Council Budget Chairman Todd Apo of Hannemann's proposed sewer fee increases.
Apo said that in light of last year's spill, he doesn't think anyone is going to say the city should put off sewer repairs.
"I think everyone agrees that we need to deal with this or else it's going to cost more down the road," he said.
But he said the City Council will need to find out just how much it is going to cost to fix Oahu's sewer system and how to pay for it.
Councilman Charles Djou said the people have already been taxed by too much for too long and he instead called for significant and meaningful tax cuts, not more tax increases.
Under Hannemann's proposal, sewer fee collections will more than double to $318 million in fiscal year 2011 from this year's $157 million.
Hannemann said the increases are needed because the city's sewer system is in worse shape than he thought when he took office two years ago because of decades of neglect.
"It all happened under my watch. I'm grateful to take it on as Mayor Sewer," he said.
As the city digs deeper, there are more projects that need to be done and more that the Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Health want the city to do, Hannemann said.
In his proposed construction budget for next year, Hannemann is asking the Council to approve 59 sewer projects at a cost of $351 million. That total plus the amount of money the city has spent on sewer system repair and maintenance over the past two years is more than what was spent in the previous 10 years, Hannemann said.