Sewer rates double in Mercersburg

April 03, 1997


Staff Writer, Waynesboro

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - Sewer rates are more than doubling in Mercersburg as of this week, driving up next quarter's average sewer bill from $55 to $90, Borough Manager Judy Chambers said Wednesday.

Sewer bills are separate from water bills, which run the average resident $59 a quarter.

The borough sewer authority voted 3-2 last week to increase the rates to help pay for the $3 million conversion of the bankrupt Mercersburg Tannery's sewage treatment facilities for the borough's use. Those facilities will be connected to the borough's existing system, which serves 700 households and businesses and is overloaded.

"We have a lot of people on fixed incomes and working families," said sewer authority member Kay Casteel, who voted against the rate increase. "This means families will have to come up with the extra money somehow."


The rates were also increased to pay off a $600,000 bill from the aborted attempt to build a spray irrigation sewer system, said James W. Smith, another sewer authority member.

The borough will use the same three-tiered rate structure as before with a $22 user fee.

The new rates are: $7.58 per 1,000 gallons up to 20,000 gallons, an increase from $3.67; $7.33 per 1,000 gallons for 20,000 to 200,000 gallons, up from $3.42; and $7.08 per 1,000 gallons over 200,000 gallons, up from $3.17.

The sewer authority "had no choice" but to increase the rates in light of the sewer improvements that are needed, said Smith, who voted for the increase. "We worked very hard to try to keep it at a minimum," he said.

Sewer authority members agreed for the most part that rates had to be increased, Smith said.

The debate stemmed from the three-tiered rate structure, which some argue is unfair.

"I would like to see a flat rate imposed so that everyone pays the same for what they use," Casteel said.

Others argued that the tiered rate structure-which gives heavy users a break-is a way to attract more business and industry to the area and broaden the tax base.

"I've always felt that the heaviest users pay the bills in this town. They pay enormous taxes," Smith said.

The sewer authority previously recommended a flat sewer rate which was turned down by borough council. The authority then suggested a flat rate with a $12 user fee, which was also rejected.

Two years ago, residents paid a $21.68 user fee, which included the first 3,000 gallons, Casteel said.

Even when the project is completed, sewer rates are not expected to go down, Casteel said. The extra money will likely be used to pay off the debt early and to provide for maintenance and improvements, she said.

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