Water Industry News

Parkersburg, WV utility board asking for 13% water rate hike to $3.90/1000


September 09, 2004

PARKERSBURG - The utility board Wednesday approved a water rate increase proposal and sent it to city council for its approval. Out of 10 options presented, the board agreed to the plan to increase the customer charge by $1 a month, raising it from $7.50 to $8.50.

Under the proposed option, the flow charge for the 90 percent of the customer base that does not need additional service from pumping stations will see an increase from $2.55 per 1,000 gallons of water to $3.90 per 1,000 gallons each month.

Those who rely on the pumping stations to reach higher elevations or farther distances will see an increase from $3.07 to $4.42 per 1,000 gallons a month.

"Of the 10, that one has the very, very best possibility of being passed by council," board member Bill Ruehl said. "I think the important thing is that we make that recommendation and make the decision that it is in the best interest of the public."

Under the proposed option, the first 500 gallons of consumption would be eliminated from customer charges, Manager Clarence Cox said. For example, if a customer uses 2,500 gallons, he would be charged for 2,000 gallons.

The option includes an increase in the monthly charge by 20 percent for water meters one inch and larger. Cox said many residential and small businesses will not see an increase.

The board is proposing to place a deposit on hydrant meters to monitor how much water is used by contractors doing various jobs for which the only source of water is a fire hydrant and to charge appropriately for the water used.

The meters would have an $800 deposit which would be refunded if the contractors return the meters in proper order and pay for the water used, Cox said.

The water rate increase is needed to ensure the city can cover bond payments for the system and keep the system financially solvent.

If no action is taken on the water rate, the bond holders can have the rate increased to where it needs to be to ensure the bonds are paid, said Parkersburg Mayor Jimmy Colombo, utility board chairman.

"It is best that we take care of our own problems," Colombo said. "This has to be done."

Parkersburg City Council has been considering the needs for a water and sewer rate increase.

Council members have said they want to keep customers from being hit with both at the same time and determined the water rate increase has the more immediate need.

That section of the utility will be running at a deficit by the end of fiscal 2005, city officials have said. The closing of Schott Scientific Glass led to an unexpected dip in projected water revenue.

Plans for a sewer rate increase may be pushed back by council or dealt with in some manner at Tuesday's meeting, officials said. The proposal had previously been tabled by council.

Council President Bob Goff said the proposal would be brought before council but he doesn't know when.

The proposed sewer rate hike is a staggered four-year plan that would increase the base charge by 50 percent, from $9.08 to $13.62, and the volume charge by 34 percent, from $3.67 to $4.92 per 1,000 gallons.

The adjustment is needed to fund a $42.8 million wastewater treatment plant expansion and upgrade required by state and federal rules. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection requires construction to be started by July 2005, and the utility must have a certificate of convenience and necessity from the state Public Service Commission before it can proceed.