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Council votes in new water, sewer rates

October 26, 2005|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN

andrews@herald-mail.com

New city water and sewer charges were approved Tuesday, cutting costs for low-end users while raising costs for those who use more.

Also, the city cut water rates for in-district users and raised rates for out-of-district users, creating a bigger gap between the customers.

Outside water users, who have been paying rates that are 50 percent more than what in-district users pay, will pay 111 percent more.

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Sewer usage rates will stay roughly the same, inside and outside the district.

Alfred Martin, the city's finance director, on Tuesday told the City Council that the new system is too complicated to summarize the increases or decreases with a single number or percentage. Residents with questions should call City Hall, he said.

The new rates will take effect in time to appear on bills mailed in December.

With little comment, the Hagerstown City Council approved the new structure by identical 4-0 votes for water rates and for sewer rates.

Martin presented the proposal last month at a City Council work session.

He said then that Hagerstown hadn't comprehensively studied its water rates in about 50 years and its sewer rates in about 15 years.

A consultant recommended making out-of-district water and sewer users shoulder more of the burden.

The city adopted the concept for water rates, but tapered it so the gap wasn't as wide as the consultant proposed.

The consultant had called for out-of-district water customers to pay 130 percent more than in-district customers.

The three Washington County municipalities that buy Hagerstown water for their residents - Smithsburg, Williamsport and Funkstown - will see less-severe increases than first proposed.

Smithsburg Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers had called the initial 62-percent increase for her town "devastating."

The increase has been cut to about 13 percent.

Martin said Tuesday that Funkstown's increase will be about 7 percent. Williamsport hasn't provided enough information for the city to calculate the percentage increase, he said.

The city's new in-district water rate will drop from $1.45 per 1,000 gallons to $1.31, for usage under 100,000 gallons.

The out-of-district rate for that usage will increase from $2.17 to $2.76.

Sewage consumption rates per 1,000 gallons will stay about the same.

The new structure will most benefit lowest-usage water and sewer customers, who no longer will be charged for a minimum of 10,000 gallons per quarter.

For example, a customer who uses 1,000 gallons of water per quarter will pay $4.45 instead of $14.50, a city chart shows.

The quarterly cost for 1,000 gallons of sewer usage inside the district will drop from $34.20, the current minimum charge, to $7.75.

Customers who use several times as much sewer or water service, though, will see increases.

At 13,000 gallons per quarter - considered an average residential usage - an in-district water customer's bill will go up 7 percent from the current rates. An out-of-district bill will go up 51 percent.

The quarterly sewer charge for 13,000 gallons will go up 9 percent for customers inside and outside the district.




How they voted



The Hagerstown City Council voted Tuesday on proposals to change water rates and sewer rates. Each council member voted the same on both.

Kristin B. Aleshire Yes

Kelly S. Cromer Yes

Lewis C. Metzner Yes

Penny M. Nigh Yes

Councilwoman Alesia D. Parson-McBean left the meeting before votes were taken.

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