With about one-tenth of the city's massive sewer system overhaul completed, Omaha officials say they're working to get a better handle on how big a financial burden the city can afford to take on.
The city is working with a consultant from the University of Cincinnati Economics Center to see how higher rates related to the project are affecting and will continue to affect residents and businesses. Marty Grate, the city's environmental services manager, said Thursday the city still estimates that the federally mandated project will cost at least $2 billion. But as construction and financing costs rise, he said, the final price tag will be higher.
The report from the consultant —whom the city will pay up to $31,000 — will likely be completed next month. Grate said it's unlikely the findings will be enough to prove to the federal government that the city needs help, but it could be an important step for finding outside assistance.
Meanwhile, the end of winter means crews will again be tearing up streets in several sections of the eastern half of the city. Affected neighborhoods include those around 60th and Pacific Streets, 16th and Nicholas Streets and in the Country Club neighborhood.
Grate said the city is working on a rate plan for 2015 to 2018, which will likely go to the City Council in the next few months. He said rates are likely to increase by 10 percent to 12 percent each year because of the sewer project. That's a lower jump than ratepayers have seen in recent years.
In 2006, he said, the average residential customer paid $10 per month. Now, that's closer to $30 and by 2017, it could be over $50.
“The largest of the increases — we're past those,” he said.
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