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Process of hiking water rates begins

September 11, 1998|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Martinsburg City Council on Thursday night started the process of passing an ordinance to raise city water rates to cover the cost of an $8.1 million water filtration project.

The ordinance will call for a $23.40 - or 60 percent- increase in the average city resident's quarterly water bill, said Martinsburg City Manager Mark S. Baldwin.

But residents may end up paying more or less for water, said Baldwin, who said the increase is only a projection of what will be needed to cover the cost of the project based on cost estimates and the city's current financial situation.

Figures in the ordinance would be revised based on bids for the project and the city's financial situation as it nears completion, he said.

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The city is required to pass such an ordinance to start the process of getting necessary approval from the West Virginia Public Service Commission, Baldwin said.

The rate increase won't be effective until "substantial completion" of the project, to give the city about six months before it has to start paying off loans for the project, he said.

That won't be for 11/2 to two years, Baldwin said.

The project will entail constructing two water filtration plants at the city's two springs, a water storage tank and improvements to water lines.

The filtration plants are required by the state to meet a federal safe drinking water mandate, despite tests showing water from the town's two springs is safe, Baldwin said.

Rates have to be increased to pay for the improvements, he said.

Under the ordinance, rates would rise from $2.60 per 1,000 gallons of water to $4.16 per 1,000 gallons for the first 25,000 gallons used, Baldwin said.

The average home uses 15,000 gallons of water per quarter, he said.

The ordinance will come up for first reading at the City Council's October meeting and for a second reading at the November meeting, Baldwin said.

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