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Water rate hikes upset W.Va. residents

August 10, 1998|By CLYDE FORD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Martinsburg residents are unhappy about their bills going up to pay for a new water system.

"They are already too high. It's a big jump," said Sharon Hutchcraft, a West King Street resident. "I struggle now to keep my water rates down."

Members of the West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council approved a City of Martinsburg plan to spend $8.1 million on two water filtration plants at the town's two springs, a water storage tank and improvements to water lines.

The filtration plants are required by the state to meet a federal mandate, said Martinsburg City Manager Mark Baldwin. Tests have shown the water from the town's two springs is safe, but the filtration systems are required to meet a federal mandate.

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To pay for the improvements, water rates are expected to increase from $11.70 a month to $18.72 a month for a 4,500 gallon-per-month customer

"You can't do a project without rates going up," Baldwin said.

Martinsburg's current rates are among the lowest in the state, Baldwin said. Only 49 out of 447 water systems in the state have lower rates than Martinsburg's, Baldwin said.

With the expected increase, Martinsburg will still have lower rates than more than half the other water systems in the state -  200 out of 447 water systems, Baldwin said.

"Our rates will still be low compared to the rest of the state of West Virginia," Baldwin said.

Fred Fowler, 42, of North High Street, said he thinks any rate increase will hurt those on fixed budgets.

Fowler said he rents his property, but he said either his 90-year-old landlord will increase his rent or she will have less money to live on.

He expects other tenants in Martinsburg also will face increased rents if the water is included in the cost.

"The rents are already too high in Martinsburg," he said. "It's going to make it hard on everybody."

Robert McFillan, 73, of Moler Avenue, said he's not too worried about the rate increase.

"It's not too bad," McFillan said. "There's nothing you can do about it anyhow. Got to have water."

McFillan said he tries to keep his water bill down now by doing his laundry only when the machine's tub is full.

Martinsburg officials will meet with engineers in the next few weeks to go over the design for the project, Baldwin said.

Construction could begin in the spring of 1999 and be completed by early 2000, Baldwin said.

"We're ready to go," Baldwin said.

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