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Water rate increase likely for Washington County towns

October 25, 2009|By JULIE E. GREENE

Projects being covered by hike in water rates

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Williamsport, Funkstown and Smithsburg water customers will likely see water rate increases within the next few months.

The three towns are wholesale water customers of the City of Hagerstown, which is increasing its wholesale rates to the towns as of Nov. 1 -- the first of five years' worth of rate increases, Hagerstown officials said.

Hagerstown officials approved a five-year water rate schedule, with water rates to increase each year through the fiscal year that starts July 1, 2013, Hagerstown Finance Director Al Martin said.

The rate increases are to cover general inflation, operating costs and several major projects for the water system, Martin said.

The three towns will see their water rates increase again July 1, 2010. Funkstown's rate at that time will increase 4.5 percent, Williamsport's will go up 4.4 percent and Smithsburg's will increase 3.9 percent, according to an e-mail from Michael S. Spiker, Hagerstown's director of utilities.

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All three towns will have their water rates increase by 6.5 percent on July 1, 2011, on July 1, 2012, and on July 1, 2013, according to Spiker's e-mail.

The rate increases are different for each town during the first two years because the City of Hagerstown is adjusting how it charges for water. The city will increase the fixed charge part of the bill so it will cover Hagerstown's cost for billing and maintaining the master water meters for each town, Martin said.

Williamsport



Williamsport Town Council members will vote on a 5 percent water rate increase at their 7 p.m. meeting on Nov. 9.

Hagerstown is increasing Williamsport's water rate by 3.5 percent on Nov. 1.

Mayor James G. McCleaf II proposed rounding up the increase, which previously was expected to be 4.4 percent from the city, to 5 percent to help the town's water and sewer fund.

The water and sewer fund has been losing money, so the extra bump in the rate now will help move the town toward breaking even and getting ahead on the future water rate increases coming from Hagerstown, McCleaf said Thursday.

Last fiscal year, the water and sewer fund lost $60,000 and the year before, it lost $80,000, McCleaf said. The town has been using general fund money to cover those loses.

"Citizens still pay one way or the other," but the utilities fund shouldn't have to dip into the general fund, McCleaf said.

If the 5 percent increase is approved:

o Williamsport water customers within the town limits will see their water rates increase from $5.80 per 1,000 gallons of water used to $6.09 per 1,000 gallons.

o Williamsport water customers who live outside the town limits will see their water rate increase from $9.20 per 1,000 gallons to $9.66.

The town bills quarterly, so customers can expect to see the rate change, if approved, on the bill they receive in January, town officials said.

Smithsburg



Hagerstown is increasing Smithsburg's water rate by 3 percent on Nov. 1.

Smithsburg Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers said it's likely that the 3 percent increase will be passed on to the town's water customers.

The mayor and town council are having a 7 p.m. work session Tuesday at Town Hall to talk to their accountant about the immediate rate increase from Hagerstown, as well as future increases, Myers said.

Myers said she asked the accountant to also look at the town's sewer rate formula to see if there is a way to lower it and give customers a break on that end. But she isn't making any promises.

Town officials just passed a 3 percent water rate increase in July to help pay for a new water storage tank, Myers said.

"I imagine we'll have to do (another) 3 percent to keep up with what Hagerstown is charging," Myers said.

"This couldn't come at a worse time, with the economy the way it is," Myers said.

More people are having problems paying their water bills as it is, she said. "That's sad."

"We'll try our best to make it easy on our customers," Myers said, but the town has to be able to pay its bills.

If Smithsburg council members decide to pass along the 3 percent increase:

o Smithsburg water customers within town limits would see the fixed rate for the first 6,000 gallons of water used per quarter go from $29.84 to $30.74. The rate for each additional 1,000 gallons would increase from $2.69 to $2.77.

o Smithsburg water customers who live outside town limits would see their fixed rate for the first 6,000 gallons per quarter increase from $39.45 to $40.63. The rate for each additional 1,000 gallons would go from $2.80 to $2.88.

Funkstown



Funkstown Town Clerk/Treasurer Brenda L. Haynes said the mayor and town council will have a public hearing about passing along Hagerstown's 3.6 percent water rate increase at the Nov. 9 regular council meeting.

The 7 p.m. meeting at Town Hall will start with the hearing, then proceed to a vote on an emergency ordinance regarding the proposed rate increase, she said.

If the council approves the rate increase, it will take effect Dec. 1.

If the council approves a 3.6 percent water rate increase:

o Funkstown water customers within town limits will see the fixed quarterly rate for up to 6,000 gallons of water go from $35.77 to 37.06. The rate for each additional 1,000 gallons would increase from $4.70 to $4.87.

o Funkstown water customers who live outside town limits would see their fixed quarterly rate increase from $47.76 to $49.48. The rate for each additional 1,000 gallons would go from $6.28 to $6.51.

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