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Washington County sewer, water rates going up, up, up

March 22, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com

Washington County officials are proposing rate increases of 3.5 percent to 4 percent in county water and sewer rates for  the next fiscal year, the latest in a series of planned rate hikes expected to continue annually for the next 10 years.

For the typical residential customer using 12,000 gallons of water every three months, the rate hike would mean a $4.80 increase in a quarterly water bill, from $137 to $141, and a $5.02 increase in the sewer bill, from $126 to $131, according to Julie A. Pippel, the county Director of Environmental Services.

The increases, which would take effect July 1, are similar to those implemented a year before.

The increased amounts are needed under a rate model that calls for the county to increase its water and sewer revenue by 4 percent each year through at least 2021, Pippel said.

Commissioners President Terry Baker asked how much water and sewer rates would be in 2021.

“In 10 years it’ll be about 45 percent higher,” County Administrator Gregory B. Murray said.

Factors driving the need for rate increases include a plan to make the utility funds self-sufficient, and the fact that water usage is going down while many costs remain fixed, Murray said.

Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham said the commissioners would have to emphasize the value of water and sewer services and the lack of alternatives to rising costs.

“It’s an essential service,” she said.

The commissioners voted unanimously to take the proposed rate increases to a public hearing on April 5.

The commissioners cannot vote on whether to implement the hikes until after that hearing, Murray said.

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