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Water, sewer increases tentatively approved

September 08, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- A handful of people spoke against proposed water and sewer increases Tuesday before the Hagerstown City Council tentatively agreed to rate hikes.

The council held a public hearing on higher water and sewer rates for customers inside and outside the city.

The increases -- which would be for five straight years -- are lower than initially proposed.

The council will take a final vote on the plan later this month. The increases would go into effect Nov. 1.

Water-rate increases would average 5 percent for in-city customers and 6.5 percent for out-of-city customers.

For sewer rates, increases would be an average of 5 percent for in-city customers and 3 percent for out-of-city customers.

An earlier draft called for water-rate increases one half of a percentage point higher.

In an earlier draft, sewer-rate increases were 2 percentage points higher for city customers and two-tenths of a percent higher for outside customers.

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City officials said the increases were needed to keep the water and sewer funds self-supporting, as outlined in a consulting firm's report.

Four people questioned the new rate system.

One was Debbie Singleton of Hagerstown, who said she understood the city's reasoning, but many people can't afford even a slight increase.

G. Ruth Douglas, who owns property in the city, said people are struggling to pay their bills.

"It's just hard to make it out there," she said.

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