FORT SMITH (KFSM)- The Fort Smith Board of Directors voted to approve a sewer rate hike during their meeting Tuesday (April 7) to cover the cost of repairing the aging sewer system in the city following the threat of a lawsuit from the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
The rate hike will go into effect May 1 and utility customers will see it on their June bills, according to the board.
"Fort Smith deserves better," Fort Smith citizen Noah Steffy said. "I think it's despicable, we are definitely moving. These increases are going to cause some harm."
City officials said citizens can expect an increase of about $12 a month.
Fort Smith deputy director of finance Jennifer Walker said there are options for those who can't afford the spike.
They offer a utility assistance plan for those who qualify.
"It provides a 19 percent discount to your trash bill, a 50 percent discount to your base water rate, and a 50 percent discount to your sewer rate," Walker said.
5NEWS asked how a resident can qualify for the discount.
"For a single person household that`s $19,400 dollars a year, and for a two person household that`s $26,300 dollars a year, for a three person household $33,000 dollars a year and a four person household its about $44,000," Walker said.
Walker said you can apply at a local senior center or city hall.
"Approximately eight million dollars a year in additional revenue and that will support significant construction work to the sanitary sewer system," city administrator Ray Gosack said.
The proposal passed six to one, with City Director Kevin Settle voting against it.
The sewer rates will triple over the next 12 years to cover the $479 million the city needs to comply with the Federal Clean Water Act by repairing Fort Smith's decades-old sewer system, city officials said.
The City Board of Directors came to an agreement with the EPA and U.S. Department of Justice after the EPA alleged the city broke several aspects of the Clean Water Act. Environmental officials said currently Fort Smith experiences sewage overflow during episodes of heavy rainfall because of its outdated sanitation system.