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Thomson Township proposes sewer rate increase

The proposal would see the current flat rate of $35 rise by 15% each year until 2025, where it would be at a $50 flat rate per month.

FILE:ThomsonTownHall
The Thomson Township Hall
Izabel Johnson / 2021 File / Pine Journal
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ESKO — Thomson Township residents had the chance to listen to a presentation on a proposed sewer-rate increase that could see rates rise up to $50 a month in 2025.

Township engineer Joe Jurewicz presented the proposal to the board of supervisors Thursday, Sept. 9, and said the township has not raised its sewer rate since 2009, when the board set the rate at $35 for residential users.

Prior to 2009, the township's rate was $15 in 2000, before rising to $20 in 2006 and $25 in 2007.

In order to make the sewer utility self-supportive, Jurewicz said the rate would need to be $57 to cover the costs and replenish the reserve fund. But as the state does help fund larger projects, he said the proposed rate could be lowered to $46 per month.

Jurewicz said being self-supportive is important for the utility as not everyone in the township uses it and it would be unfair for their property taxes to go toward something they do not use.

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However, he noted that an increase by that much could be jarring and have an impact on many residents who are living on a fixed income. To ease the immediate burden, he instead proposed raising them by 15% a year until 2025, when the rate would reach $50 a month.

His proposal would be to raise the rate to $40 in 2023, $45 in 2024 and $50 in 2025.

Thomson Township will hold a public hearing for residents to ask questions about the proposed increase in sewer rates.

"Inflation isn't stopping today," he said. "This just means you aren't losing as much."

Jurewicz said after he calculated the total operational and capital for delivering the service to the community, the township is breaking even with its current rate, but he added that an issue arises when the township wants to undergo larger repairs that require it to dip into its sewer reserve fund.

As the township is living "paycheck-to-paycheck" with its rates, Jurewicz said it has not been replenishing its sewer reserve fund.

Jurewicz said this could be a problem down the line if any major repairs have to be made to the sewer line and state or federal funding isn't available.

"Sewer pipes are getting older and we'll find more things that will have to get more repairs," he said. "It is not an emergency, but it is a concern."

Compared to its neighbors, Jurewicz explained that Thomson Township has the cheapest rate, the closest in price being Cloquet, which was $43.60 per month in 2021.

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With his proposal, and all other rates staying the same, Jurewicz said the township would have the second-lowest rate compared to its neighbors.

The board did not vote on the rates after the presentation. Township Clerk Rhonda Peleski said the township engineer and attorney are working on a new sewer ordinance, which will include the rates.

She added the town tentatively is planning to have the rates in place by the first of next year.

For those interested in viewing the full presentation, it is scheduled to be available on the township's website .

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Dylan covers the local governments of Cloquet and Carlton County, as well as the Esko and Wrenshall school boards for the Cloquet Pine Journal.
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