Town drafts new water rate ordinance
The Bath Town Council has decided to draft set new water rates after months of discussion, a study by the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC), the water line replacement project, a two year moratorium on new water taps and recurring problems with pumps at the Berkeley Springs Water Works.
"The PSC wants the people of West Virginia
to have good quality water. If we want to
continue to provide good quality water we
need to raise rates," Mayor Susan Webster said
at a meeting of the Water Committee November 27.
Currently, water customers pay a minimum fee of $55.80 for consumption up to 6,000 gallons quarterly. For every 1,000 gallons beyond the minimum, rates depend on usage, with larger consumers paying less per 1,000 gallons.
The new ordinance would set a flat rate of $8.50 per 1,000 gallons used beyond the minimum of 6,000 gallons. This means that some large consumers who were paying as little as $1.43 per 1,000 gallons would have a substantial rate increase.
Customers who use the minimum 6,000 gallons or less would see a small decrease in their rate.
Councilman David Crosby said the new rates would increase water revenues the town collects by approximately 11 percent, or $70,000 - $80,000 a year.
The draft ordinance would also impose an impact fee of $2,000 for each new water tap. The fee would help pay for needed expansion of the water plant.
There are currently 400 requests on a waiting list for new water taps. Some of those requests are from developers who want multiple taps.
"If we are going to have to expand the plant, we need to charge an impact fee," Councilman and Finance Committee Chairman David Crosby said.
In addition, the ordinance would increase the charge for installing a water meter from the current $577.50 to about $800.
"Basically, we are not charging as much (to install a water meter) as it costs," Crosby said.
Council directed Town Clerk Margie Allgyer to draft a new ordinance and give it to town attorney Richard Gay to review.
The ordinance must then pass a first reading by council. Council will then hold a public hearing and a second reading. After the hearing and second reading, council may vote to adopt the ordinance.
Recently, all three pumps at the water works have failed. One pump was repaired and is working. The other two pumps are out for repair awaiting parts.
Chief Water Operator Terry Largent said it will take 2 – 4 weeks for the parts to arrive. These same pumps failed last December during the Christmas holidays.
Largent told council a new pump could cost as much as $25,000. Council voted to authorize the expenditure of up to $25,000 to purchase a new pump for the plant.
A moratorium on new taps has been in effect since August 2005. Under PSC rules, the moratorium must be lifted if water consumption drops below 80 percent of capacity.
Webster said the town would not know whether that figure had been reached until after the current billing cycle. Even if the moratorium is lifted and new taps allowed, it won't take many taps to push the consumption above 80 percent again and the moratorium to be reinstated.
Council discussed possible solutions as either to expand the capacity of the exiting water plant or build a new plant.
New project needed
Largent has proposed a new water line replacement project to replace 21,000 linear feet of water line outside of the area covered by the recently completed project. The water works provides water to 1,600 customers. More than 1,000 are outside of town limits.
Since the water line replacement project was completed in town, water leaks began showing up in areas outside of town. This is due to old pipes and the increase in water pressure after the completion of the earlier line replacement project.
That project cost 2.48 million and was funded by a low interest loan. The town would need another loan to fund a new water line replacement project.
Donation to fire department
Council voted to donate an additional $1,000 to Berkeley Springs Volunteer Fire Department.
Webster explained that the town budgets each year for a $1,000 donation to the fire department. Because of the extra help provided by Fire Chief J. J. Steiner and his crew of volunteers during the recent water pump crisis, council felt an additional donation was in order.
While one of the town's failed pumps was being repaired, Steiner and volunteers from the fire department helped man a temporary gasoline driven water pump 24 hours a day.