Washington Co. water, sewer rates to rise

May 05, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- The Washington County Commissioners voted 4-0 Tuesday to approve water and sewer rate increases that will cost the average residential customer about 4 percent more for water and about 5 percent more for sewer.

The vote came after a public hearing on the rate increases at which there were no citizen comments.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval said he thought the new rates were good compared to those in other areas.

Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire said if the county did not raise rates, it would be faced with the need for increases twice as large this time next year.

"I think it is completely irresponsible to keep things artificially low," he said.

Commissioners President John F. Barr was absent.

Under the rate changes, a residential customer using 12,000 gallons of water a quarter, the county's average amount, will pay about $5.20 more per quarter for water and about $5.80 more per quarter for sewer.


Rates will also go up for commercial users and towns that purchase sewer service at wholesale rates.

The new rates will go into effect July 1.

The increases are part of an ongoing plan to pay down utility fund debt and make the water and sewer funds self-sufficient, Environmental Management Director Julie Pippel has said. That plan calls for the county to increase water and sewer fund revenue 4 percent each year for the next 10 years, Pippel said.

As the county raises water and sewer rates, it will be able to reduce the amount of funding transferred to the water and sewer funds each year from the county's general fund, County Administrator Gregory B. Murray said. The county is on track to reduce that general fund subsidy to zero by 2013, Murray said.

Other factors that influenced the rate increases included the need to install state-mandated enhanced nutrient-removal technology in the county's wastewater treatment system and a slowdown in housing starts that has reduced the county's connection fee revenue, Kercheval said.

The changes approved Tuesday also included a $5 increase in the fees for four types of laboratory analysis services.

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