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City looking at increase in water rate

November 19, 2012
By Melissa Toothman - Staff Writer ( , The Inter-Mountain

The new year may bring a new water rate for Buckhannon residents.

Buckhannon City Council approved an ordinance for a water rate increase proposal at last week's meeting. If approved by the West Virginia Public Service Commission, the water rate increase will be effective Jan. 1.

Tetrick & Bartlett, PLLC, independent accountants, calculated the average customer rate increase at 15.31 percent. The independent accountants recommended the adoption of the new rates and projected the rate increase will generate $204,473 in new annual revenues for water board operations in the city.

The increase is dependent upon customer classification and quantity of water consumption from 14 percent to 24 percent of current rates, according to a press release provided at Thursday's meeting. It also can vary based on customer meter size.

Buckhannon resident Jim Marsh voiced his concern that his sewage rate would increase with the water rate increase, because his sewage rate is usually double that of his water rate.

However, council assured Marsh that water and sewer were two separate entities and sewage rates would not be changed at this time.

Using statistics based on 4,000 gallons of water usage in multiple public service districts in the state, City Administrator Michael Doss said that the current bill in Buckhannon averages $16.32. The water rate increase would bring that to $18.76.

"I can live with a couple of bucks," Marsh said.

Based on the same numbers, most other local towns' current rates are still higher than the increase.

The city of Elkins averages $26.78, Clarksburg's rate is $29.04, Bridgeport's is $31.61 and Philippi's rate is $38.96, according to Buckhannon officials.

"We are in a lot better shape than other municipalities," Doss said.

McCauley said Buckhannon was regularly recognized as one of the best water producers in the state.

Also, Buckhannon has not had to increase rates as frequently as recommended. The proposed water rate increase will be the first since September 2007 and only the second increase since 1984. Water rate increases are recommended every two to three years, city attorney David McCauley said.

"Buckhannon's water system has been excellently managed among the lowest rates in the state," McCauley said. "Two increases in 28 years is unheard of."

Customers who subscribe to bundled packages, however, will continue to pay the promotional rate until the anniversary of the promotion.

"While we pledge to hold prices as low as possible, we continue to face the rising costs of TV programming, equipment, insurance and other expenses," Michael Kelemen, Suddenlink's director of governmental relations, said in the letter addressed to Davidson.

Kelemen also reported that Suddenlink is experiencing a yearly 8.5 percent increase in the cost of basic cable networks and broadcast television stations combined.

"Suddenlink is absorbing a portion of these cost increases and passing along a portion to customers," Kelemen wrote.

Per month, expanded basic service will increase by $3.50, HBO/Cinemax will increase by $1.50 and Showtime and Starz will increase by $1. Also, the monthly modem rental price will increase to $5.

Phone and internet prices for some promotional packages will increase by $3 monthly.

The broadcast station surcharge will increase by $2.33 per month.

All taxes, fees and surcharges will be adjusted in accordance with the changes.

City Attorney David McCauley told council on Thursday there was nothing that could be done to stop an increase in these rates. Davidson was not present at Thursday's council meeting.

Councilman Ron Pugh suggested purchasing the cable company and offering the service, similar to what the city of Philippi has done, but McCauley said that would not be economically feasible.



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