Ris­ing Sun ap­proves sewer rate hike due to ris­ing costs

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL & OBITUARIES - By JANE BELLMYER jbellmyer@ce­cil­whig.com

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.

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