PG board approves utility rate hike
Decision on tax rates deferred to April 24 meeting
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 GettingGreatRates.com 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.