Water rates jump 15 percent

September 23, 2008

By Jon Savelle

It’s a catch-22 for the city’s water users: If you use less, your bills will be lower — but that means city revenues will be lower, so officials will have to raise your rates.

Now, the city has done exactly that. Agenda Bill 5882, approved by the City Council on Sept. 15, calls for a 15 percent rate increase.

“Fifteen percent is not a low increase in anybody’s mind,” said Councilman John Traeger. “This was not a fun discussion. A lot of things were out of our control.”

One big item was a $2.2 million outlay for replacement of the Cougar Ridge reservoir, rather than the expected $200,000 for repair, said Sheldon Lynne, deputy director of Public Works Engineering.

But the council agreed there was little choice.

“Providing ample pure water is a core function of the city,” Rittenhouse said. “These capital expenditures are reasonable, they had to be done and they are the right thing to do. I fully support the rate increase.”

“I reluctantly support this also,” added Councilman Fred Butler. “While we don’t like to do this kind of thing, we do have to preserve our system.”

The boost works out to about    $7 more per month for a typical single-family home, according to the agenda bill. For houses with a 1-inch pipe to the meter, the fixed bimonthly charge would be $52.12, including the increase.

Homeowners can determine the size of their supply pipe simply by measuring its diameter where it enters the house, but this information is already on file with the city. All rates are given in a Water General Facility Charge table that considers the size of the pipe, the type of building and whether it is commercial, apartments and other considerations.

Rates last were increased in 2006, when they went up 3 percent. But since then, two wet summers have reduced water use, while operations costs have gone up. Spending for unforeseen repair and replacement projects has put a dent in the Water Capital Fund.

“Currently, these issues are being managed by delaying projects and reducing the amount of annual capital main replacement being accomplished,” the bill states.

Part of the current request is based on a 2006 rate study that recommended increasing rates in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010.

The new rates go into effect Nov. 1. Further rate increases will be addressed in 2009 and 2010.

Reach Reporter Jon Savelle at 392-6434, ext. 234, or jsavelle@isspress.com.

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