Rising Sun approves sewer rate hike due to rising costs
RISING SUN — Saying the operating cost of the new wastewater treatment plant has been higher than expected, the mayor and commissioners raised the town sewer rates.
The new rates will take effect Jan. 1, 2018.
“The chemical and electricity costs have been higher than originally expected to operate the plant,” said Brian Leishear, the Rising Sun commissioner in charge of water and sewer.
At the Wednesday night special meeting, the commissioners’ last act of the evening was approving a 10-year schedule of increases ranging from 5 to 12 percent. The current rate of $10.38 will rise to $11 next year, or 6 percent. That’s the rate that was set in 2008 with the rate schedule for the construction of the wastewater plant.
The next two years customers will see a 12 percent rise, putting the rate at $13.80 and then $15.18. The following two years see a 10 percent rise, with five percent for the remaining years, ending at $21.31 per $1,000 gallons in 2026.
Rising Sun had to establish a schedule of increases in 2008 to cover construction costs and also to build the reserves for the construction of the water system. It was part of the funding mechanism required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Calvin Bonenberger, town administrator, said when those rates were set, town officials could not predict the huge increase in electric costs.
“And at the time, the town thought a town employee would train to run the plant,” Bonenberger said Friday.
None of the four public works employees wanted to take the training needed to run the orbal ditch operation built on town property along Route 1. So when the plant was put into service last summer a third party contractor — Miller Environmental Services — was hired at a cost of $93,000.
The Maryland Department of the Environment has also ordered the town to decommission its lagoon, which means Rising Sun needs as much as $6 million to drain the manmade storage pond and install a belt filter press to process the waste material.
With the water line com- ing to fruition, however, the town has the attention of developers, which means hookup fees at $8,000 each for water and sewer. On Wednesday night, Rising Sun officials approved their contract with Chester Water Authority. The Pennsylvania utility will build distribution lines to the Maryland border, where Rising Sun will connect and bring the water into town. Not only does it provide water to town customers, but also paves the way for Rising Sun to become a regional water supplier.
Leishear said it’s possible the rate increase would never be put into effect with those new customers.
“We can buy down the rates residents have to pay and have money for projects,” he said.