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Rate hike likely for water customers

If approved, officials say the rate increases will give customers throughout the county the same rate.

If approved, officials say the rate increases will give customers throughout the county the same rate.

July 24, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Officials with Berkeley County's water supplier plan to seek permission from state officials to increase water rates to pay for the rising costs of running the system.

Water rates range from about $18 per 4,500 gallons of water in the southern part of the county to $27 in the northern part of the county, said Bill Alexander, chairman of the board of directors for the Berkeley County Public Service District.

An increase will probably be enough to bring everyone's water bill to about $27 per 4,500 gallons of water usage, Alexander said.

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Rates are different across the county because three different water districts once existed in the county, Alexander said. The three districts have since been merged into the Berkeley County Public Service District.

Rates were lower in the southern part of the county because the water company that served that area had more revenue than other districts, Alexander said. The other districts had higher rates because they had higher capital expenditures.

"They were justified at the time for what they were doing," Alexander said.

The increased costs of running the county water system can be attributed to several factors, Alexander said.

To offset the effects of the drought, the district had to lay a water line from a body of water in the Inwood Quarry to a treatment plant in Bunker Hill, W.Va.

Alexander said costs also went up when the World Kitchen plant near Inwood shut down. World Kitchen was a major water customer for the district, using about 14,000 gallons of water a day.

Although the area has had normal rainfall in April, May and June, the groundwater level is still low. The area is going to need a winter with heavy snows and perhaps a fall with heavy rains spurred on by a hurricane season to get groundwater levels back to normal, Alexander said.

Alexander said he is not sure exactly how much of a rate increase the district will seek from the state Public Service Commission because there is an ongoing audit to determine what types of costs the district is facing.

District officials should have an idea of what type of increase they will request by the end of next month, Alexander said.

The request must be sent to the Public Service Commission in Charleston for approval, Alexander said.

If the Public Service Commission receives any complaints about a proposed rate increase, officials with the state agency can order a public hearing.

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