The Union Bridge Town Council has narrowly recommended water and sewer rate increases that would cost the average user 60 percent more per quarter.
The suggested increases in water rates range from 113 percent for small users to 9 percent for the largest customers.
The council also recommended hefty increases in sewer rates, but the increases were spread more evenly among all but the smallest users. Rates for the smallest users would increase 17 percent. Increases for all other users would range from 42 percent to 48 percent.
The council will hold a public hearing on the proposed rate increases at 7 p.m. Jan. 25. If approved by the council, the rates would take effect July 1.
Large increases in water and sewer rates are necessary because the town is not collecting enough money to cover operating costs. Annual water costs exceed revenues by $34,150, James L. Schumacher, planning commission chairman, told the council at a meeting Monday.
The disparity in sewer rates is even greater. The town needs another $50,650 to break even on a yearly basis.
"We have to get on track so we are not paying for this out of the general fund," said Mayor Perry L. Jones. "There's no way around it; we're going to hear complaints. The rates are going to go up regardless."
The rate increases are necessary not only to cover expenses but to qualify for $400,000 in state and federal grants to help make improvements to the water and sewer system, Schumacher said. The town has received grants of $200,000.
Schumacher gave the council three options for rate increases, each dealing with a minimum base rate and a charge per gallon.
Ultimately, the council, on a 3-2 vote, recommended a plan that calls for a minimum quarterly water rate of $20 and a $2 charge for every 1,000 gallons used. The cost for a customer who uses the town average of 10,000 gallons a quarter would increase 74 percent, or $17 a quarter. The increase for the county's biggest customers -- those using 300,000 gallons a quarter -- would be 9 percent, or $49 a quarter.
Sewer rates for the average customer -- 11,000 gallons a quarter -- would increase 46 percent, the same as for the town's largest users. The new rates would be based on a base charge of $36 per quarter and a $3 charge for every 1,000 gallons used.
The average user would pay $109 per quarter for water and sewer service -- an increase of 60 percent.
Debate Monday centered not on whether to raise rates, but how.
Members first considered a plan with a $13 base charge and a rate of $3 per 1,000 gallons. That plan would have been slightly less onerous for small users, but would have been more expensive for average ones.
Pub Date: 12/30/98