Galena water bills may decrease while sewer bills increase
Special from the Kent County News
— The mayor and council held a public hearing Monday, Aug. 1, on a report recommending changes to Galena’s water and sewer rate structures as construction is underway on a new wastewater treatment plant.
According to consultants from AECOM, an engineering firm, the recommended rate structure should be based on a flat use of 7,500 gallons per quarter, with additional fees for every 1,000 gallons used thereafter. The cost increase also would be phased in over the next two years.
“What we found was that the median usage of all of the users — that’s commercial, institutional and residential — was about 7,500 gallons per quarter,” AECOM’s Chris Rogers said. “So we thought that was a good demarkation line of usage to frame our alternatives.”
For the first 7,500 gallons of sewer this year, AECOM recommends charging $96.75, plus $12.90 per every 1,000 gallons above the base amount. For water, the base rate would be $67.50 for the first 7,500 gallons and $9 for every $1,000 gallons after that.
For the following year, the base sewer rate
would jump to $136.88, with an additional $18.55 fee for every 1,000 gallons in excess. The base water rate would go to $68.25, with $9.10 added for usage beyond 7,500 gallons.
AECOM also suggested a 1.25 multiplier for out-of-town users. It will not be applied to those unincorporated properties set to be served through a special agreement with the county, which is helping pay for the new wastewater treatment plant.
“There’s really no accounting reasons to charge out-of-town people higher rates than in-town customers. However, many towns do it because they can and as a condition of providing service outside where they are have to,” Rogers said.
Rogers said the quarterly water bill for those using up to 7,500 gallons would decrease $14, while sewer bills would go up $29 a quarter.
Town Manager Sharon Weygand said the study was required to secure funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the wastewater treatment plant.
Additional recommendations were made for connection fees and fees for maintaining allocations for undeveloped lots.
For months, town officials and Laura Lane residents have been discussing who is responsible for the maintenance of grinder pumps serving individual homes in the de- velopment. Laura Lane is the only area of town with the pumps, which were installed by the developer.
The town has previously serviced the grinder pumps without charge, a practice Mayor Sam Sessa has said he was previously unaware of. No one from the town has been able to find any documents ceding responsibility for the pumps to the municipal government.
During his presentation Monday, Rogers said the rate study also reviewed the grinder pump issue. He said after 10 of the 12 pumps were inspected, one company would be willing to enter into a service contract after $20,146 worth of repairs are completed. The annual service contract would then cost $345 for the first five years.
Rogers said the town would cover the costs for the initial maintenance, while Laura Lane residents would be responsible for paying the annual service cost.
Michael Piasecki, a Laura Lane resident and one of the developers, said his research into other jurisdictions show that there are municipalities that take responsibility for the grinder pumps, just as Galena did in the past. He also questioned why the town did not inform residents that the grinder pumps were their responsibility.
Councilman Harry Pisapia, who was mayor when the development was built, said it was not the town’s responsibility to inform property owners that they had grinder pumps. He said that fell on the developers.
Laura Lane resident John Riley suggested the town get additional bids for a maintenance contract.
Town Attorney Tom Yeager said that due to cost associated with the contract, the town is required to put it out to bid.
Sessa said the issue with the grinder pumps was not handled properly. He said it was never the town’s intent to take on the responsibility for the pumps.
“I was unaware that the Town of Galena was not billing for that sort of thing,” Sessa said. “I wasn’t aware that we were even in the grinder pump business to be honest with you.”
The council plans to continue discussions on the rate study at its September meeting.