Manchester water, sewer rates to rise

November 29, 1993|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

Most Manchester water and sewer users will face only a moderate rate increase under new fees approved by the Town Council Tuesday -- but big increases may be in store in future years, warns Town Manager Terry L. Short.

He said the new rates "may let us limp through this year, but will mean substantial increases in future years."

The Town Council approved a water rate structure that consists of a flat quarterly fee of $9.60, plus $1.74 per 1,000 gallons used. The new rate is less than the $1.87 rate that had been proposed at an earlier meeting.

The new sewer rate structure includes a flat quarterly fee of $12, plus $5.25 per 1,000 gallons used.

Under Manchester's old rate structure, users were billed at different rates for different volumes. The new rates take effect at the next billing.

The changes mean that customers who use 7,000 gallons to 28,000 gallons per quarter for water and sewer will pay more than they did under the old rate structure. People who use 5,000 gallons or less each quarter will save money, as will those who use 29,000 gallons or more.

Under the old rates, a typical household that consumed 14,000 gallons per quarter paid $103.86 for water and sewer service.

With the new rates, the family will pay $119.46, an increase of $15.60.

But that household will pay $15.32 less than it would have if the council had adopted the $1.87 rate.

Mr. Short said the council was able to adopt the $1.74 rate instead of the $1.87 rate because its members decided not to try to avoid rate increases in future years. The $1.87 rate they decided against was designed to allow the council to keep the rate fairly stable for the next five years, so long as projections for inflation and housing construction prove accurate.

"It's really hard to keep a rate the same for five years running," said Councilman Douglas Myers, who proposed the $1.74 rate.

He estimated that the town's water rate will have to rise next year to $1.85, with further increases of 10 cents a year through 1998.

Mr. Myers also projected that the sewer rate will have to rise next year as well.

At the council meeting Tuesday, Mr. Myers said that limiting future water rate increases will depend heavily on whether planned housing developments are built.

"You're going to have to go back and change your rate if you don't get those houses," he told the council.

The sewer rates set by the council last week may be far too low to cover the cost to the town of treating its waste water.

"There is potentially a huge deficit," Mr. Short said.

He said the reason is that the model used to produce the new sewer rates did not consider the town's "inflow and infiltration" problem.

Inflow and infiltration occurs when ground water leaks into the sewage system through old, cracked pipes.

No one pays the town for the water that leaks in, but the town must pay to treat it at the sewage plant.

From January through June 1993, more than one-fourth of the water treated at the Manchester sewage plant had leaked into the system.

In April, which was a wet month, half the water treated leaked into the system, and was never billed to anyone.

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