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Some board members said the changes may be too complicated to explain to customers.
Thursday, March 21, 2013
Western Virginia Water Authority is proposing a rate increase and a change in the way it calculates sewer bills that its number crunchers think will boost residential customers’ combined bills by an average of about 2.5 percent over the course of a year.
But on paper, the increase looks higher.
The proposal calls for an 85-cent-a-month, or 3.6 percent, increase in the base residential water rate . For a customer using 5,000 gallons a month, that means a rise in the monthly rate from $23.65 to $24.50.
For sewer rates, the authority is proposing a 50-cent-a-month, or 1.7 percent, increase in the base rate. It is also proposing a 25-cent-per-thousand-gallon increase in the volume rate.
Taken together, that means that the sewer bill for a customer who uses 5,000 gallons of water would rise from $29.75 to $31.50.
But the authority is also proposing to cap sewer volume charges for most of the year, based on winter-time use. That should mean savings for people who use a lot of water outdoors, for watering lawns or gardening, that doesn’t end up in the sewers. The authority bases its sewer bills on the amount of water a customer uses.
The 25-cent-per-thousand-gallon increase in volume charges is intended to offset the effect of capping summertime sewer bills, said Mike McEvoy, the authority’s executive director for wastewater services.
“We think that’s a fairer approach,” McEvoy said.
“We get a lot of complaints about this in the summer,” he added.
The change would mean bigger bills for people, such as city apartment dwellers, who don’t do a lot of summer yard work, said the authority’s vice chairman, John Bradshaw.
Even so, he said it seemed fairer than continuing to charge people for wastewater they didn’t actually generate.
But board members Harvey Brookins, Marc Fink and Gray Goldsmith said they were concerned that the change would be too complicated to explain to the authority’s customers.
“It seems to me if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Fink said.
Brookins said he liked the approach but thought communicating it was too daunting.
The rate changes must be reviewed in a public hearing, set for June, and then formally voted on before they could take effect. If approved, they would take effect next year.
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