Annapolis mayor says rise in water rates is necessary He wants revenue to cover upgrades on pipes, sewers

December 04, 1998|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

Annapolis Mayor Dean L. Johnson is working on a proposal to increase city water and sewer rates for the first time in 10 years because officials had to dip into reserve funds last budget year to cover a $600,000 deficit.

Johnson said yesterday that he has not worked out the details of the increase, but that he will present his proposal to the city council in January. He said the council will vote on the increase by April.

"We're under an obligation that the water and sewer operations be self-sustaining, that the revenues have to be equal to or greater than the operating costs," Johnson said. "But during the last budget, we had to take $600,000 from reserves for those two to meet operating expenses."

Johnson said the rates were last increased in 1988. Households are charged $1.20 per 1,000 gallons for water and $1.68 per 1,000 gallons for sewer service if between 5,000 and 35,000 gallons of water is used annually. He said that most households fit that criterion.

Johnson, a Republican, said he and the city council began looking into the issue in the spring, hiring an engineering consulting firm to analyze the operations' expenses and estimated costs for upgrading the water and sewer systems. He said the analysis was completed a few weeks ago and he is reviewing it before deciding on the proposed increase.

The mayor said it's important that both services take in enough revenue to cover improvements to sewer lines and water pipes because they are essential.

"Parts of the water system are 120 years old, and on the sewer side we've had several collapses," he said. "There are some [sewer] sections that were built 70 years ago."

Johnson said he has talked to a few aldermen about his plan and has sensed a "real aversion" to the increase.

"I share that aversion, believe me, but the knowledge that our revenues are not sufficient to pay all the expenses of our water system and the only real increases in costs are in replacement of parts to the sewer systems this is absolutely essential," he said.

Some aldermen said yesterday that they had not heard about Johnson's proposal. Democratic Alderman Cynthia A. Carter of Ward 6 said she was surprised.

"I'm not happy with it," Carter said. "I personally wasn't looking for any increases."

Pub Date: 12/04/98

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