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MSD Makes Public Case For Infrastructure Investments — And Rate Hikes

msd sewer
Creative Commons
MSD sewer

Louisville’s Metropolitan Sewer District is making its case for city government to invest in critical repairs to its system.

The agency is holding a community meeting in Metro Council District 8 Monday night, and it will be holding other meetings throughout the month of March.

The meetings come after MSD’s request for a 20 percent rate hike was rejected by Metro Council last year. At the time, council members said they felt blindsided by the request and questioned the long-term planning that went into such a steep increase.

Ultimately, MSD had to settle for a 6.9 percent rate increase, which is the largest increase its board could pass without Metro Council approval.

MSD Executive Director Tony Parrott said the agency learned from that experience and is approaching things differently this year.

“One of the things we heard last year was we needed to make sure we take it to the streets and we advise folks where the projects are and where the money will be spent,” he said.

Enter the agency’s Critical Repair and Reinvestment Plan, and the community meetings MSD is holding across the city to share the plan and take public comments on it.

The plan focuses on six key areas MSD has identified as needing significant work: the city’s Ohio River flood protection system, addressing inland drainage and stormwater that floods neighborhoods, viaduct flooding relief projects, wastewater treatment, aging infrastructure, and the $850 million federal consent decree to reduce sewer overflows into the Ohio River.

Parrott said MSD is collecting public comments on the plan until March 1 and is holding conversations across the city to take the public’s pulse on the work that needs to be done.

“Do we do this program in 20 years, or do we defer some projects and do it in 30 years, or do we defer even more projects and do it in 40 years?” he asked. “That’s essentially what the community conversation is about, to let folks know what the risks are, what project solutions are and then how fast do we do it. If the community is supportive of the 20-year timeframe, then we have to figure out how to kickstart the financing of the program.”

Parrott said for MSD to address all of the critical projects outlined in the plan over two decades, it would require rates to rise about 23 percent for the first year, with smaller increases in subsequent years. He said that would result in the average bill rising by about $10 a month, and he wants to hear how ratepayers feel about that.

“Because it is MSD’s role to make sure that we bring these risks forward and have public conversation about it,” he said. “Now it’s up to the public to give us feedback on whether or not they understand the risks, number one, and then how they feel about funding it and essentially in areas where there may be other concerns about affordability, how they feel about rate assistance programs to help others who may have trouble paying bills.”

The MSD board hasn't yet determined how large a rate increase it will seek this year.

The next community meeting is Monday evening at 6:30 at the Douglass Center Gym, 2305 Douglass Blvd.