Commission set to vote on 14 percent increase over three years
Barring a last minute change, water bills for the average Union County family will climb a total of 14 percent over the next three years. The rate increase would help pay for a $250 million infrastructure improvement plan, to bring more water and sewer capacity into the county over a nine year period.
County commissioners voted once to approve the change at their Monday, Feb. 6 meeting. Because the vote was 3 to 2, with Kim Rogers and Tracey Kuehler in opposition, the motion has to be voted on a second time, at the commission’s Feb. 20 meeting. When Union County changes an ordinance, the vote must be unanimous, in order to pass on a first attempt.
“What drives our rates mostly is our new capital improvement program,” Public Works Director Ed Goscicki said. “We’re looking at a $250 million capital improvement program over the next nine years. Our ability to pay for that is what’s driving up our rates in the short term.”
Under the proposal, rates for most residents would rise 7 percent this year, then 3.5 percent for each of the next two years. An average family who uses roughly 3,000 gallons of water per month will pay $1.90 per 1,000 gallons used this year, then see that increase to $1.95 in 2013. For residents in the upper tiers of the system, who use between 3,001 and 10,000 gallons per month, that bill will climb five cents each year.
Those who use between 10,000 and 15,000 gallons will see a $5.70 per 1,000 gallons used bill this year, then $5.75 in 2013 and $5.85 in 2014. Those who use more than 10,000 gallons per month will pay a $10.10 bill by 2014. All of the rates go up if there is a stage two, three or four drought during that period.
For commercial and other nonresidential customers, they will pay a flat rate of $2.60 in 2012, which will increase once to $2.70 in 2013.
“We have been working on this rate study for the better part of a year,” Goscicki said. “It is the first comprehensive rate study Union County has undertaken in more than 10 years. Rates that we’re recommending (are) the first rate increase to our residential customers in more than 10 years.”
In addition, customers that have a fire service or fire sprinkler connection will be charged an annual fee of $100. Any actual usage of the sprinkler will be charged at the residential rate. Residents or businesses connecting as new customers to the system will also be charged a one time fee that varies based on the size of the meter. That ranges from $1,200 to $9,300 for commercial pipes. Goscicki said that was designed specifically to pay for the costs associated with serving new customers.
Most customers, Goscicki said, would fall under the 4,000 gallons or less tier each month. Those residents would see roughly a $2.30 increase to their water bill.
Across Union County, 75 percent of Public Works customers are billed at 7,000 gallons or less of water and sewer each month, Public Works business manager Shelley Maness said. At 7,000 gallons, a customer would see a total increase of $3.95 per month on their bill.
County commission vice chair Todd Johnson also pointed out that with the rate increase, the county will be able to fund their full capital improvement program, in terms of water and sewer.
“Everybody on this board understands the importance of commercial growth (but) the only way you’re going to do it is to have the infrastructure,” Johnson said. “This plan helps provide the infrastructure we need, to help bring in those jobs.”