Still no answer if Youngstown has to raise sewer rates to pay for treatment plant project

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City officials need to figure out soon how to pay for work required by the EPA on its sewage treatment plant

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The consultant hired by the city of Youngstown to help it through its financial problems says he needs more time analyzing the budget for the city’s latest project.

The answer was not what two members of city council’s finance committee expected at a recent meeting about possibly raising the city’s sewer rates.

Construction continues at the Youngstown sewage treatment plant on Poland Avenue — work required by the Environmental Protection Agency to get the plant up to standards.

What city officials need to figure out soon is where the money’s going to come from to pay for the $93 million of work for phase one of that project, let alone phases two and three.

“So, we are in the process of kind of completing the various scenarios,”

Consultant Michael Abouserhal is analyzing the finances of the waste water department out five years — deciding if sewage rates should be raised.

At a meeting Wednesday evening, some city council members thought they’d get an answer… but not yet.

“So, we’re hoping on being done with all of what I indicated and the presentation to city council sometime toward the end of September,”

Councilwoman Basia Adamczak was concerned another month might be too late, since some of the bills for construction are being paid from the waste water fund, which is bleeding money.

“That if we wait until September for some type of numbers, that doesn’t give us a lot of time to come up with a game plan,”

Finance Director Kyle Miasek says some of the work won’t be done until next year — that payments can be pushed to then — so one more month won’t matter.

Councilman Mike Ray questioned if the average Youngstown resident could afford an increase in sewer rates.

“How much more of their disposable income can they put toward their utility bills?”

Abouserhal said the financial status of Youngstown residents is not part of his study. But, Mayor Tito Brown says it might be part of what he presents to the EPA.

“We’ve done our due diligence. We’ve looked at everything and here’s what we found, and here’s another factor why we can or cannot afford this,”

The Ohio EPA has loaned Youngstown the money for 87% of the $93 million needed for phase one.

The EPA is waiting to see what Youngstown decides on sewage rates before committing to a loan for the remaining 13%.

Phases two and three of the project have not yet been designed.

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