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Proposal pares Hagerstown utility rate hikes

September 01, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- Proposed increases to Hagerstown water and sewer rates have been knocked down a notch.

A new draft calls for water-rate increases averaging 5 percent for customers living in the city and 6.5 percent for customers living outside the city.

An earlier proposal included increases averaging 5.5 percent within the city and 7 percent outside the city.

Sewer-rate hikes also have been sliced in the new draft. The average increase would be 5 percent within the city, instead of 7 percent.

For customers outside the city, the average increase would dip to 3 percent, down from 3.2 percent. Last month, the increase was estimated at 4 percent.

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Water and sewer rates would increase at those levels for the next five years, according to a memo summarizing the proposal.

In the spring, a preliminary 2009-10 city budget had projected increases of 12.75 percent for water rates and 11.5 percent for sewer rates.

The Hagerstown City Council will hold a public hearing on the new proposed water and sewer rate increases on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

If, as expected, the council votes on Sept. 22, increases would go into effect Nov. 1.

Increases would affect Funkstown, Smithsburg and Williamsport, which buy water from the City of Hagerstown.

The memo says a $1.4 million federal stimulus grant and a favorable interest rate through the state helped lower the sewer-rate increases.

The memo also says budget lines for vehicles and improvements to the R.C. Willson Water Plant will be reduced to help lessen water-rate increases.

Municipal & Financial Services Group, a consulting business, has recommended five years of consistent rate hikes for water and sewer service, rather than a large one-time increase.

The consultant also has recommended that the city establish a Repair, Renewal and Replacement (3R) Reserve Fund for aging infrastructure, increase fixed charges to more closely match billing and revenue-collection costs, and impose fees on late-paying customers.




If You Go



What: Public hearing on proposed Hagerstown water and sewer rate increases

When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.

Where: Hagerstown City Hall, council chamber, second floor

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