City Manager Dan Wendt explains the need for updating utility rates in Vandalia in order to provide safe drinking water, to prevent accidental discharges of raw sewage, to address costs associated with regulatory mandates, to better prevent flooding during rain events, and to execute deferred maintenance within the utility system.
Utility Rate Update
Effective on the first utility bill in January, 2023, utility rates in Vandalia will be adjusted to meet emerging needs in the City’s water, sewer and stormwater systems. This bill is due January 17, 2023. Water and wastewater rate updates apply to all accounts north of Interstate 70 (i.e., residents, businesses, and customers south of Interstate 70 within the City of Vandalia corporate limits are customers of Montgomery County where the water and wastewater rates are more expensive (See: 2023 Piqua Utility Rate Survey). Storm water increases apply citywide.
The minimum utility bill is based on a calculated usage of 2,500 gallons per month. Public and private utilities use a minimum bill calculation to account for the opportunity costs associated with maintenance of the utility infrastructure, treatment, distribution, and collection systems. The minimum utility bill is necessary because there are many costs associated with providing the utility prior to the first drop of water reaching the faucet.
Many households and accounts pay the minimum utility bill each month (i.e., 2,500 gallons per month). For minimum user accounts, the approximate combined utility rate increase is $0.33 per day (i.e., $9.98 per month, $119.76 per year) for water treatment, water distribution, wastewater collection, wastewater treatment, and storm water drainage. After the first 2,500 gallons, the impact of the increases on a customer's bill depends on consumption. For customers using 2,500 gallons or less, the water bill will increase by $4.44 per month, the sewer bill will increase by $4.96 per month, and the stormwater bill $0.58 per month.
Utility Rate Study: Considerations and Presentation
The issue of utility rates was studied for more than a year before legislation was approved to affect the new rates. The presentation below examines many of the issues surrounding the need for updates for the water and wastewater systems. Click here to view the presentation.
How Are Utility Rates Used?
Utility rates are used to provide safe drinking water, to prevent accidental raw sewage discharges from causing illness and environmental destruction in our communities, and to reduce the risk of flooding during wet weather events. The City of Vandalia uses utility rates to install, to maintain, and to replace hundreds of miles of water mains and sewers; to maintain three water towers; to purchase and to maintain capital equipment like service trucks and tools; to comply with environmental regulatory mandates and laws; to fund associated personnel and contractor costs; and to maintain and to operate its water treatment and wastewater treatment plants with its municipal partners.
Vandalia Utility System Facts
The City of Vandalia has a complex and extensive utility system including water treatment and distribution, wastewater collection and treatment, and storm water drainage.
Northern Area Water Authority (NAWA)
Vandalia is unique in that water is provided to residents via the Northern Area Water Authority - a joint effort with Tipp City. This has allowed the cities to achieve efficiencies and reduce costs by eliminating redundancies. The two governmental agencies created NAWA in 2002, and the NAWA Water Plant opened in 2005. The plant uses a reverse osmosis system to remove impurities from water, and has a capacity designed for future growth.
Water System Needs & History of Watermain Breaks
Both communities are responsible for the transmission of water to their communities, and Vandalia’s water delivery infrastructure includes 87 miles of water lines throughout the City. Much of the infrastructure used to supply Vandalia homes with water and wastewater was installed in the decades of the 1950s and 1960s. As the water lines age, they become more brittle and prone to breakage. Click here to see a map of water main conditions and upcoming replacements.
In the graphic below, each red X represents a water main break. Some City streets have experienced dozens of water main breaks over the years as the aging lines become less dependable. With 87 miles of water lines throughout the City, it is important Vandalia maintain a systematic plan to replace the lines most prone to breakage. Click here to see a map detailing waterline conditions and forthcoming waterline replacement projects.
Tri-Cities North Regional Wastewater Authority
Wastewater in Vandalia is treated by the Tri-Cities Wastewater Authority - a joint effort with Tipp City and Huber Heights. Vandalia is unique in that wastewater treatment is provided to residents via the Tri-Cities North Regional Wastewater Authority. This joint venture has allowed the cities to achieve efficiencies and reduce costs by eliminating redundancies The three Cities created Tri-Cities in 1996, when they jointly took over operations of a wastewater treatment plant just off Needmore Road near Huber Heights. Tri Cities North Regional Wastewater Authority serves 67,000 residents and thousands of businesses in the communities of Huber Heights, Vandalia, and Tipp City. All three communities are experiencing rapid industrial, commercial, and residential growth. The system currently operates at 96% of the design flow capacity of 11.2 million gallons per day. Capacity limitations within the plant and the collection system have been identified as problematic by the Miami Valley Planning Commission. Modifications to expand gallon / day capacity aligns with a direct contribution to the communities’ and the metropolitan region’s overall economic and community development goals. Tri-Cities has conducted third-party professional planning studies indicating the need for plant and collection system improvements of more than $100,000,000 to meet regulatory mandates relating to flow, sanitary sewer overflows, and nutrient removal. Costs for the upgrades will be shared at a ratio that corresponds to usage by the cities of Vandalia, Tipp City, and Huber Heights. Reduction of sanitary sewer overflows will reduce contamination of waterways and the likelihood of downstream waterborne illness. The cost of the mandated improvements is prohibitive and too expensive to be financed by residents and businesses alone. Because of the wide-reaching impact for the region extending across Montgomery and Miami counties, the communities are in the process of applying for more than $15 million in grant funding to offset the costs of the mandated upgrades.
In the 26 years since taking over operations, very few modifications have been made to the wastewater treatment plant.
The Environmental Protection Agency has implemented new regulations set to be enforced in 2027. In order to meet these regulations, the Tri-Cities Wastewater Treatment Plant will require extensive modifications. Much like the water lines, many of the sewer lines used in Vandalia are aging and need to be replaced.
Draft Schematic of Necessary Tri-Cities Wastewater Treatment Plant Updates
The image below shows a draft schematic and estimated costs of plant upgrades that are necessary to meet Environmental Protection Agency and other regulatory mandates.
Draft Schematic of Necessary Tri-Cities Wastewater Collection System Upgrades
The image below shows a draft schematic and estimated costs of collection system upgrades that are necessary to meet Environmental Protection Agency and other regulatory mandates in order to prevent raw wastewater from being discharged into our communities’ streams and rivers.
Utility Rate Updates
Historic utility rates in Vandalia have been among the lowest in Southwest Ohio. The City of Vandalia is proud of its tradition of efficient and cost-effective utility provision for its residents and businesses. This has been possible because of the City of Vandalia working with Tipp City and the City of Huber Heights to pool resources and eliminate redundancies. Rates have been able to remain low partially because the cities have deferred maintenance to the wastewater treatment plant and sanitary sewage collection systems. Many water mains are reaching their expected useful life and it will be necessary for the City of Vandalia to implement a robust replacement schedule over the next 20 years.
Utility revenues will be used to fund water treatment plant maintenance, wastewater treatment plant upgrades and maintenance, address mandates from the Environmental Protection Agency and other regulatory bodies, replace water mains, maintain water towers, and address needs for capital equipment and personnel expenses that are associated with providing clean and safe drinking water, preventing environmental contamination, and protecting Vandalia from flooding during rain events.
The impact of these increases on the end user will vary greatly depending upon consumption. Someone who uses the minimum amount of water and sewer would see their water bill increase $4.44 per month, their sewer bill increase $4.96 per month and their stormwater bill $0.58 per month.
The minimum user will pay approximately $0.33 more per day, $9.98 more per month and $119.76 more for the year.
Historic Utility Rate Surveys
The annual Piqua (formerly Oakwood) utility rate survey provides a standardize assessment of regional utility costs across 60+ jurisdictions in Southwest Ohio. Rates are based on 22,500 gallons of water used in a three month period (i.e., 7,500 gallons per month). Many Vandalia households 2,500 gallons per month or less.
Historic utility rates in Vandalia have been among the lowest in Southwest Ohio. The City of Vandalia is proud of its tradition of efficient and cost-effective utility provision for its residents and businesses. This has been possible because of the City of Vandalia working with Tipp City and the City of Huber Heights to pool resources and eliminate redundancies. In addition, rates have been able to remain low because the cities have deferred maintenance to the wastewater treatment plant and sanitary sewage collection systems. The City of Vandalia has ensured that residents and businesses have benefited from these historic savings.
In December 2022, wastewater utility rates were 8.95% lower than they were in 1999. Inflation was 63.82% (CPI-U All Items) from 2000 - 2022. Social Security cost of living adjustments increased by 58.90% from 2000 - 2022.
The City of Vandalia forecasts that utility rates will remain competitive in the region so that Vandalia remains an affordable place to live and do business. The 2023 Piqua Utility Rate survey shows Vandalia's combined standardized rate at $281 for three months, while the combined rate average is $315.74 among 65 jurisdictions in Southwest Ohio.