The increase in rates over the past two decades has climbed, but the comparison to the bill then versus now is not a clear-cut one.
The capital and operating rates are now combined into a single rate because we changed our capital rate methodology to be the same as our operating rate, which is based on water use. This change means it is not possible to accurately calculate the percentage increase of rates when comparing current rates to those charged prior to 2014 without assistance from JCW staff.
The user charge rate prior to 2014 did not include a capital component as it does today. To accurately compare rates, you have to include the capital portion of JCW’s rates. Prior to 2012, capital costs were recovered by the fixed Equivalent Dwelling Unit (EDU) charge that was billed on the annual real estate tax statements. In 2013, JCW moved the EDU from the tax roll to the user charge bill.
In 2014, JCW completed a multi-year conversion of its billing method to a unified rate model. This was the first year JCW billed a combined rate and the larger than normal increases in the service charge and volume rates were due to adding the capital component to the rates.
There are several reasons for annual rate increases. They include:
Continued investment in preventive maintenance – Unlike many utilities, JCW has a fiscally responsible and proactive asset management, maintenance and repair program that helps keep the cost of operating and maintaining the wastewater system lower by avoiding expensive repairs and clean-up costs resulting from deferred maintenance of sanitary sewer pipes and wastewater treatment equipment. By reinvesting in our aging system, JCW has significantly reduced the occurrences of collapsing pipes and public health issues from back-ups and raw sewage overflows. By investing a little at a time you get more out of the system by improving the durability, life and reliability of the county’s assets, thus lessening the impact to rates.
In 2019, JCW’s revenue requirement increased by 7.75 percent, which equates to $2.70 a month for the median household or $5.40 on each bi-monthly bill. The revenue requirement represents the total amount of money JCW must collect from customers to pay all costs. This increase is higher than those in previous years due to several factors as well as the Tomahawk Plant expansion, which will help keep rates lower once the project is completed in 2022. We are investing now to save more over the long term.
Residential charges are determined by multiplying the annual volume of average winter water usage (AWWU) by the rate and adding the customer service charge [(Volume x Rate) + customer service charge = Amount]. This amount will be divided by 12 calendar months, which will give you your monthly charge. Since residential customers are billed bimonthly, your bill has two months' worth of wastewater charges.
The AWWU is your average water usage during winter months based on meter readings. This is the best measure of the volume of drinkable water used at the property during the winter months that reasonably estimates the volume of wastewater discharged to the wastewater treatment facilities of Johnson County Wastewater. By using winter water usage, Johnson County Wastewater can accurately estimate the volume of wastewater discharged into the treatment facilities by each property. Winter water usage is used to avoid charging for heavier summer uses that do not impact the wastewater treatment system like watering your lawn and garden, washing your car, or filling your swimming pool.
A large increase in your average winter water use (AWWU) will impact wastewater charges more than rate increases.
JCW’s rates are among the lowest in the metro and have been consistently so for many years because we have pro-actively reinvested in our system with activities such as repair, replacement and preventative maintenance. Our collection system is a huge investment worth $1.7 billion. See how JCW compares to other wastewater utilities. (Rate comparison chart for 2018.)
The expansion and upgrade of the Tomahawk Creek Wastewater Treatment Facility is only one of several factors that causes rate increases every year. By increasing the size of the plant, we will no longer need to send 60 percent of our wastewater which is treated at the Tomahawk Creek facility to Kansas City, Missouri, for treatment, allowing us to better control our costs and be much more efficient. Therefore, the Tomahawk Project will significantly lessen the amount of rate increases in the future.
Once the project is completed, we will be saving approximately $16 million annually by not sending flow to KCMO and paying them to do the treatment. Over a 35 year period, it will save JCW hundreds of millions of dollars. Without the improvements to Tomahawk, significant savings would not be possible in the future because we would continue to pay KCMO for treatment, and this would result in much higher annual rate increases for customers.
(Please visit the Tomahawk project page for more information).
There are several factors affecting the cost of cleaning wastewater, including energy, chemicals, and reinvestment in the collection and treatment systems. Pollutants in the wastewater must be removed to ensure the protection of public health, aquatic life and the environment before returning it to the environment. The cleaned water must meet water quality requirements.
The treatment process not only eliminates disease-causing bacteria to protect the environment for human and aquatic life, but also removes other elements such as ammonia, which can be harmful to fish, as well as nitrogen and phosphorus. These nutrients can cause excessive algae growth in streams, rivers and lakes.
In collaboration with Johnson County Wastewater, the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment has lifted a health advisory for residents living in the area between 55th and Mission and 75thand Mission. The advisory was issued Saturday, May 13 due to a sanitary sewer overflow into Brush Creek in the areas of Prairie Village and Mission Hills.
Johnson County Wastewater crews investigated the source and determined a private contractor unknowingly drilled into a sewer line in the area near Tomahawk Road and Mission Road. The damaged line has been repaired. The Wastewater Department flushed the creek in the area and tested the water. Bacteria levels have returned to normal allowing the advisory to be lifted today.
If you have questions about the advisory being lifted, please call 913-477-8436.
Johnson County Wastewater is excited to announce that we will launch the MyGovernmentOnline permit and inspection software May 1, 2017. The software will enhance the permit application submittal, plan review and inspection experience for owners, engineers, contractors, tenants and others through convenient online services.
Users will have the ability to:
Please download a copy of the MyGovernmentOnline Customer Portal Instructions and create your free customer portal account as soon as possible. Contact information for each individual associated with a project including email address, postal address, phone number(s) and must be completed and confirmed during the review process. Individuals associated with a project may include:
The MyGovernmentOnline software will allow you to apply for your permits online rather than traveling to a designated permit office. Any documents required with an application, such as architectural plans, civil plans, plumbing plans, surveys, plats, calculations, etc. must be uploaded in PDF format when submitting the application.
Inspection requests must be submitted online prior to 4 p.m. to have an inspection performed that same day. JCW authorization of the inspection is required before the inspector will be scheduled. JCW inspectors will enter inspection results at the time of inspection and the inspection results will be provided via e-mail or through the customer portal shortly after the inspection.
If you need any assistance using the MyGovernmentOnline application, please call the technical support line at 1-866-957-3764, option 1 for assistance. The agents can assist with any software-related questions.
JCW with MyGovernmentOnline will offer a two-hour exploration session the afternoon of April 25 and the afternoon of April 26. Please RSVP to JCW-Solutions@jocogov.org or JCW Customer Service at 913-715-8590 if you will attend. Attendees are encouraged to bring their laptops.
Susan Pekarek, chief engineer at JCW for the past three years and a 15-year employee with the department, has been named the new general manager of JCW which provides sanitary sewer service to more than 400,000 customers throughout the county.
She succeeds John P. O’Neil, who retired from JCW on July 1, ending a 27-year career with Johnson County. During the county’s national search for his replacement, Pekarek served as the interim manager of the department.
A resident of Overland Park, Pekarek assumed her new duties September 25.
The selection of the new wastewater administrator was announced by Deputy County Manager Penny Postoak Ferguson.
“Susan Pekarek has long served the residents of Johnson County in her role with JCW. She has demonstrated leadership, knowledge, professionalism, and hard work in wastewater operations,” Postoak Ferguson said. “The county will continue to benefit from her incredible value as a well-respected wastewater professional, a team player, a team leader, and a dedicated county employee. She’s a good fit to fill big shoes.”
In her new role, Pekarek will oversee the $280 million Tomahawk Wastewater Treatment Facility expansion project which is the largest project JCW will have completed in its 70 year history. Overall, she will oversee assets in excess of $2 billion.
“I am very excited about the challenges and opportunities for community service this position offers,” Pekarek said. “Johnson County Wastewater is recognized as one of the best wastewater utilities in the nation and I look forward to working with the excellent staff at JCW to continue that tradition.”
Pekarek has served as chief engineer, including overseeing the Asset Management, Planning and Public Projects Division, since 2013. She joined JCW in 2001 as a managing engineer in the Engineering and Operations and Maintenance Divisions along with assisting in three major wastewater treatment plant expansions totaling more than $100 million.
Before joining Johnson County, Pekarek began her professional career in 1997 as an environmental engineer at Burns and McDonnell where she worked for four years.
She received a bachelor’s degree (1996) in civil engineering from Kansas State University and a master’s degree (1997), also from KSU, in civil engineering with an environmental focus.
Her professional memberships and collaborations include the Core 4 Blue River Watershed Integrated Planning Task Force, the Kansas Water Environmental Association and Water Environmental Research Federation.
Johnson County Wastewater is responsible for the safe collection, transportation, and treatment of wastewater generated by more than 139,000 residential, industrial, and commercial accounts.
JCW operates a total treatment capacity of nearly 64 million gallons per day, including six major treatment plants, 31 pump stations, and more than 2,250 miles of wastewater lines that processes more than 18.5 billion gallons of sewage annually. The wastewater system covers a service area of more than 172 square miles and 16 cities.
No water to drink, or even to make coffee with. No water to shower, flush the toilet, or do laundry. Hospitals would close without water. Firefighters couldn't put out fires and farmers couldn't water their crops.
Some communities in America already know how impossible it is to try to go a day without our most precious resource: Water. Johnson County Government joins the Value of Water Coalition on September 15, 2016, with a proclamation as we raise awareness and educate America about the value of water.
We all depend on freshwater for drinking, food, energy, work, and play. Our waters are over tapped, but we can fix this!
No American should have to imagine a day without water. For more information, please visit Imagine a Day Without Water.