PG board ap­proves util­ity rate hike

De­ci­sion on tax rates de­ferred to April 24 meet­ing

The Progress-Index - - FRONT PAGE - By Adri­enne Wal­lace Her­ald-Post

PRINCE GE­ORGE — If you are on county water and sewer, the cost of liv­ing in Prince Ge­orge just went up.

In a 4-1 vote, the Board of Su­per­vi­sors ap­proved a water and sewer rate in­crease at Tuesday’s reg­u­lar meet­ing. Su­per­vi­sor Floyd Brown voted against the rate in­crease.

Ef­fec­tive on July 1 the water rate will go up 5 per­cent and the sewer rate 7.5 per­cent.

In­terim Util­ity Di­rec­tor Dickie Thomp­son ex­plained the aver­age water cus­tomer will see an in­crease of $1.24 per month

on 5,000 gal­lons, with sewer ris­ing $3.97 per month on 5,000 gal­lons.

On aver­age for cus­tomers with both water and sewer, it's about a $5.21 a month in­crease.

Last year, the county passed a 10 per­cent rate hike on water and 20 per­cent on sewer.

Some res­i­dents have sewer only.

Those who are not on county water will see a flat rate in­crease of $7.50 and their bi­monthly bill will go from $99.08 to $107.48.

“That equates to a cup of cof­fee at Star­bucks,” Thomp­son com­pared, not­ing it's 46 cents per 1,000 gal­lons and 87 cents per 1,000 gal­lons on sewer.

Dur­ing the pub­lic hear­ing this week, Wil­liam Steele said, “With all due re­spect, this is not just an­other cup of cof­fee. I know we have to pay for it, but it adds up with a lit­tle penny here and a penny there.”

The sewer rate in­crease is larger than water, Thomp­son ex­plained, be­cause the waste­water treat­ment plants that the county con­tracts with dis­charge into the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay water­shed, and “that is very strin­gent.”

The es­ti­mated rev­enue from the in­crease is $373,000, which will help pre­serve the util­ity fund bal­ance

Even if there was a 2.5 per­cent in­crease ev­ery other year, a study de­ter­mined, the util­ity fund bal­ance would di­min­ish.

In the 2016 study, Carl Brown with Get­ stated, “The big driver of the over­all level of rates that you need is debt ser­vice that you will in­cur in the next few years to make sys­tem im­prove­ments.

“Your out­side water provider and sewer treat­ment providers also have sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments needs, the cost of which you will be re­quired to shoul­der a pro­por­tion­ate share of.”

The Ap­po­mat­tox River Water Au­thor­ity and South Cen­tral Waste Water Au­thor­ity, Hopewell sewer ser­vices, Peters­burg water and sewer ser­vices and Vir­ginia Amer­i­can Water ser­vices have po­ten­tial rate in­creases.

Some of the is­sues in­clude that the county re­ceives its water and sewer pump-out from other lo­cal­i­ties in­clud­ing Hopewell and Peters­burg

“We may not swal­low this well, but we are in the back seat and not the driver’s seat. The waste­water treat­ment plant needs a $90 mil­lion re­pair, and it has to be done.”

T.J. Webb, su­per­vi­sor

There are sev­eral projects in the works, some that will even­tu­ally equate to cost sav­ings through tech­nol­ogy and bet­ter in­fra­struc­ture.

Be­cause of dam­aged pipes and dated in­fra­struc­ture, Thomp­son said, in many ar­eas in­clud­ing Wild­wood Farms, ground water is get­ting into the pipes and then in turn the county is pay­ing to have that pumped out and in essence is pay­ing to pump clean water.

Ra­dio Read me­ters will help to read me­ters quickly and, if there is a prob­lem, re­duce re­sponse times.

“I know it’s not pop­u­lar to have a rate in­crease but it is some­thing we have to deal with from time to time,” board Chair­man Alan Carmichael said af­ter clos­ing the pub­lic hear­ing.

“We may not swal­low this well, but we are in the back seat and not the driver’s seat,” Su­per­vi­sor T.J. Webb said.

“The waste­water treat­ment plant needs a $90 mil­lion re­pair, and it has to be done. There is not a short-term res­o­lu­tion. We de­pend on our neigh­bors for water and waste­water treat­ment. The in­fra­struc­ture is 46 years old in some ar­eas.”

“Some of the ci­ti­zens may think we don’t get it ... Oh we get it,” Carmichael noted. “This topic comes up five to six times ev­ery two weeks all year round. We are try­ing to find ways to bring util­i­ties to ar­eas."

Vice chair­man Don­ald Hunter, who has both county water and sewer, made a mo­tion to pass the pro­posed rate in­crease, which was sec­onded by Su­per­vi­sor Mar­lene Way­mack, who also men­tioned she has both county water and sewer.

Su­per­vi­sors agreed that fu­ture dis­cus­sions will in­clude cap­i­tal im­prove­ment projects that will give the county its in­de­pen­dence through its own water and treat­ment fa­cil­i­ties.

Dur­ing this week's meet­ing, the board also held a pub­lic hear­ing on a pro­posed in­crease in the real es­tate tax rate and other lo­cal tax rates. The board voted to de­fer a de­ci­sion on that is­sue un­til their April 24 meet­ing.

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