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Water, sewer rates to inflate

March 01, 1998|By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Water, sewer rates to inflate

Hagerstown's water and sewer customers could have higher rate increases this year than Washington County's sewer customers.

Hagerstown city officials project rate increases of 5.5 percent for sewer customers and 6 percent for water customers starting July 1, compared to rate increases of 3 percent to 5 percent projected for county sewer customers.

City Finance Director Al Martin said the projections could change. Martin said the city could decide to borrow more money up front in order to cushion the water rate increases.

An average city customer inside the city limits, who uses 13,000 gallons per quarter, pays $35.88 a quarter for sewer and $15.08 a quarter for water. A 5.5 percent increase for sewer and 6 percent increase for water would add $1.79 a quarter to the sewer bill and $.90 to the water bill. City customers who live outside the city limits pay more.

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After this year, the city rate increases would level off to 3 percent a year for water and 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent a year for sewer, according to the projections.

The sewer rate increases would help pay for upgrades to the city's sewage treatment plant to remove nutrient pollution and replacement of leaky sewer lines. The water increases would help pay for water plant upgrades.

The average county customer using 12,000 gallons a quarter pays $87.20 a quarter at the current rate. A 5 percent increase would cost $4.36 more a quarter.

The county's rate increases had been projected as high as 14 percent, but operating savings and a $7 million drop in the cost of upgrades to remove nutrient pollution could keep increases at 5 percent a year or less over the next decade.

Rates could increase faster than 5 percent if the County Commissioners decide to lower the $3.5 million general fund subsidy of water, sewer and pretreatment services.

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