Sewer Costs Over Time

Nov 28, 2011

With property owners in Lexington paying the bills, city officials are fighting to keep the cost of a half-billion dollars in sanitary sewer improvements under control.   Lexington residents first saw fees levied on their sanitary sewers in the mid 1980’s.  They’ve increased over the years,..most recently, in 2009 and again in 2010.  Division of Water Quality Director Charlie Martin suspects it’s just a beginning and more rate increases are likely over the dozen years it will take to upgrade Lexington’s sanitary sewers.

“The likelihood of there being more to cover the capital costs that we’re projecting right now is pretty good…this is the same thing that they are experiencing in Louisville…northern Kentucky…Cincinnati,” said Martin.

Martin recently read about a sewer project in Nashville that will approach three-billion dollars.

Contractors commonly increase their prices once a project is underway…increases that must be approved by Lexington’s council.  Instead of these unexpected expenses, Council member Ed Lane wants to negotiate fixed price with engineers, construction managers, and contractors.  By fixing prices on the 500-million dollar project, he claims the city could save millions.

 “Just a one percent change..savings…is over five point four million dollars…two percent savings would be ten point eight million…so we’re talking about substantial money here,” said Lane.

Meanwhile, engineering consultant John Steinmetz says there are other cost control measures already worked into projects as big as this one.

“And they’ll be design controls placed right now on the planning stages where we are right now..then on the design stages…and then in the bidding stages and in the construction stages,” added Steinmetz.

Water Quality Director Charlie Martin says the really disruptive digging for new sanitary sewers won’t probably occur for another two years.  But, fee increases that will fund the work could come when the mayor builds his budget proposal next spring.