Martinsburg may double water fees

March 07, 2001

Martinsburg may double water fees

By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg

Bills paid by 6,400 customers who use city water would more than double under a draft proposal to increase water rates.

The rate proposal, which the Martinsburg City Council must approve after a public hearing, would increase the rate for those who use less than 8,333 gallons per month, from $2.60 to $6.75 per 1,000 gallons.

The city calculates the rate hike would increase the average user's monthly water bill from $11.70 to $28.33 - almost $200 more a year - based on an average consumption of 4,500 gallons per month.

Increases for large users - those consuming 33,000 gallons per month or more, would jump from $1.71 per 1,000 gallons to $4.62 per 1,000 gallons, according to city figures.


City officials identified the Berkeley County Public School System as a large user, although officialc could not immediately provide water-use figures for the schools.

"The school system, as with other businesses, deals with utility rate increases," said schools spokeswoman Mary Jo Brown. "We have no special fund to pay for them. So that means when we have increases, we have to move money from one area to another to deal with it. We don't know how the water rate increases will affect us."

The school system has also had to deal with increases in natural gas prices this winter, Brown said.

A spokesman for City Hospital, another large water user, said hospital staff will evaluate the proposed increases and make a comment after that.

City Manager Mark Baldwin and Karos both said the rate increases cannot be avoided. The state requires the city to ensure the water it provides is as clean as possible. Additional funds from increased water rates will be used to pay off bond issues to build two water filtration plants, a 1.5 million gallon storage tank and distribution lines.

"We had no choice in this," Karos said.

Both officials said they realize the financial hardship this could bring to some people, especially those on fixed incomes. Baldwin said people will be able to pay monthly, rather than once every three months, as the city normally bills.

And with cleaner water through the filtration plants, and huge storage for fires and droughts, residents will gain from the new system, Baldwin said.

"The public benefits in the quality and quantity of the water," he said.

The council will discuss the proposed rate hike at its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday. A public hearing, followed by a vote on the measure, is scheduled for 6 p.m. March 22.

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