Water Industry News

Fenton, MI new water treatment plant results in 95 percent water rate increase

Currently, 3,841 customers use about 413 million gallons of water each year.

1) OLD RATES: First 100,000 gallons: $2.10 per 1,000 gallons. Next 100,000 gallons: $2 per 1,000 gallons Amounts over: $1.90 per 1,000 gallons.

2)  NEW RATES: $4.10 per 1,000 gallons, regardless of volume. Quarterly charges for 3/4-inch meters will go up to $26, a $2 increase.

City residents' water rates will almost double to help cover a $9-million bill for a new water plant and water main work.

City Council members on Monday approved a rate increase from $2.10 per 1,000 gallons to $4.10 per 1,000 gallons. High-volume users will no longer receive a discount.

The increase is retroactive to March 1 and will appear on residents' quarterly bills in July.

Officials have said for three years that rates would go up once the plant was operating, but no one expected a 95 percent hike.

"We covered every option in front of us to offset costs to residents," said City Manager Michael Senyko. "But with the situation we're in, everything came back to this kind of increase. This is where we sit."

Personnel and chemical costs were underestimated when rates were projected in 2001, said financial adviser Paul Stauder, who recommended the hike. Also, water usage has remained steady despite a 10 percent increase in customers.

The water plant, which opened early last fall on North Road, is expected to add $758,500 each year to the cost of treating and delivering water to residents, said City Treasurer Cynthia Dethloff.

Council members said a new plant was needed to improve the quality of city water, which was among the hardest in the region and, according to many residents, tasted bad.

Fitted with special equipment, the plant produces softer water with reduced iron and arsenic levels.

"When I moved to Fenton, I didn't drink the water. I bought bottled water," said City Councilman Edward Angeluski. "I hope people realize how important the water plant is."

He said that although residents will pay more for water, they won't have to pay to replace corroded water fixtures or purchase salt for home water softeners.

Council members Cheryl King and Dianne North voted against the hike, saying residents had not been given adequate notice.

"I think it's very unfair to spring this on people," North said. "We're doing them an injustice to vote on this without talking about it (first)."

North made a motion to table the vote until council members could discuss the issue at a work session. King and Angeluski supported the motion, but a majority of council members voted against it.

"We've been anticipating this," said Councilman Peter Medor. "We need to make sure we have enough money to keep the plant operating properly."

Annual payments of $715,000 for the next 18 years are due on a bond debt of $9 million for the plant and water main work. The city paid $2 million in cash to fund the projects, which cost a total of about $11 million.