The Washington County Board of Commissioners also heard from Environmental Management Director Julie A. Pippel about the reason for the proposed rate increases.
Pippel said the increases are needed to help fund the addition of “enhanced nutrient-removal” technology to two treatment facilities in response to state requirements, and to keep up with the rising costs for chemicals and electricity needed to operate the plants.
“The huge costs associated with wastewater treatment are continuing to go up,” she said.
County Administrator Gregory B. Murray said the next fiscal year will be the first since 1996 that the county’s general fund has not subsidized its water and sewer fund.
The county had been phasing out that subsidy and got approval from the state last year to take it out altogether, making water and sewer fully self-sustaining, he said.
Murray said the county had once projected the need for annual water and sewer rate increases of 9 to 11 percent per year, but has actually kept them in the 0 to 4 percent range.
Another change proposed for next year would restructure the county’s fees for delinquent water and sewer accounts. The changes would give households that do not pay their bills fewer notices, three instead of four, and less time, at least 42 days instead of at least 72 days, before service is shut off.
The changes would also prevent households from being charged for turning the water off and back on if customers pay before service is actually shut off, Murray said. In that case, only a $30 delinquent account fee would be charged.
Commissioners President Terry Baker said the commissioners would consider the input from the hearing and vote on the proposed changes at a future meeting.