Annapolis increases water and sewer rates to fund system upgrades

Residents will be able to change bill schedule

March 19, 2000|By Amy Oakes | Amy Oakes,SUN STAFF

Don't fill up that fish tank too many times or let the faucet drip for days and nights.

It's going to cost you.

After more than a year of study and debate, the Annapolis City Council voted last week to increase water rates by 62.5 percent and sewer rates by 67.7 percent, based on the average usage of 10,000 gallons per quarter.

As a result, a resident using 10,000 gallons will pay $32.10 per quarter, as opposed to the old fee of $19.75. Sewer fees jump from $27.65 to $46.39.

The change goes into effect immediately.

The increase -- the first in more than a decade -- is needed to repair the city's aging utility system. Several major projects are planned for the next five years.

Mayor Dean L. Johnson said the city is planning to spend $63 million on water projects, such as building a tank next year, and $23 million on waste water upgrades from now until 2004.

The water and sewer systems are self-sufficient, but with cost increases and changes in regulations, the city has had to pay more to operate the utilities without raising fees for residents. The financial strain has forced the city to draw money from reserve funds that, at its current pace, will run out in fall.

"It's been running as a loss for three years," Johnson said.

He said the increased revenue will be reviewed each year, and if the city finds it has excess, the rates could be lowered. To help ease the transition, two amendments were added Monday night to the rate increase ordinance.

Alderman Samuel Gilmer, a Ward 3 Democrat, introduced an amendment that allows residents to pay monthly rather than quarterly. The change must be requested in writing, and there is a four percent surcharge for the service.

Alderman Sheila M. Tolliver, a Ward Two Democrat, introduced an amendment that allows residents to use the average of their winter water usage for calculation of their summer sewage fees. Sewer fees are based on water consumption.

Tolliver said that often people use more water in the summer, but it's for activities, such as washing a car, that do not affect the sewage system.

Residents must indicate billing preference by July 1 in any year or they will be billed based on actual water consumption.

Tolliver also introduced an amendment to phase in the increase over three years, but it was defeated.

The rate increase is based on a water and sewer study done by Black and Veatch Corp. and presented to the council in February 1999. Johnson introduced an ordinance outlining the rate increase in May.

A revised ordinance was introduced in October and voted on Monday.

Although the substantial increase has attracted attention, many residents understand the need to improve the city's water and sewer systems.

"The increases are necessary," said Erich Rose, a Ward 1 resident. "We're going to have to bite the bullet."

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