The Vinton Town Council voted Tuesday to gradually raise its water and sewer fees in order to pay for looming infrastructure needs.

The council passed a four-step plan that lowers the minimum water and sewer account fees from $25.34 per month — or $50.68 for residents on bimonthly billing — to $15 per month. The plan also eliminates a policy that waived volume usage fees for the first 1,500 gallons per month consumed and raises water and sewer volume usage fees by 6%. These changes take effect Jan. 1.

These initial changes will be followed by an 8% rise in the monthly minimum charges and a 6% rise in the volume usage charges each year for the next three fiscal years.

The plan comes after the town hired Davenport & Co. earlier this year to study its water and wastewater system. The study evaluated a five-year plan for operations and capital investment.

The town estimates it has about $8.3 million in utility system work. Three critical needs include upgrading meters and upgrading to a sewer pump station. The town also needs to bring a new well online so it can stop using an underperforming site.

The town would fund a portion of these improvements through debt and other portions through cash available after operations. The water and sewer systems operate under independent budgets funded solely by utility fees. Those resources aren’t mixed with the general fund.

Officials estimate the average financial impact of the changes for a family of four will be about $5 per month. Smaller or lower-usage households might see their bills dip initially.

Vinton’s utility system serves about 5,500 customers including town residents, businesses and households in the surrounding east end of Roanoke County.

In addition to generating needed infrastructure funding, officials said, the new rate structure will be more streamlined and straightforward, partly because the town plans to move to monthly billing for residents. In Vinton, households are on bimonthly billing currently, but customers frequently request an option for the more common once-a-month billing cycle.

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Alison Graham covers Roanoke County and Salem news. She’s originally from Indianapolis and a graduate of Indiana University.

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