Official justifies proposed fee rise

Plan to boost rates for water, sewer blamed on lower use

May 15, 2001|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

Several South Carroll residents attended a meeting with county Comptroller Eugene S. Curfman last night to protest a proposed 6 percent increase in their quarterly water and sewer bills.

Curfman has proposed raising water and sewer rates in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. It would be the second rate increase in two years. The commissioners are expected to act on Curfman's proposal next week, when they adopt a spending plan for the coming budget year.

"We conserve water because we have to ... and still we have to pay more," said Dee Andrews of Eldersburg, who has lived in the community since 1977 and, like her neighbors, has suffered water shortages during three of the past four summers. "Does that seem fair?"

Others who showed up at the meeting at Liberty High School in Eldersburg asked that notification of proposed water and sewer rate changes be included in their quarterly water bills.

The proposed increases would help cover the day-to-day cost of running South Carroll's water treatment plant, which has a daily capacity of 3 million gallons.

According to Curfman, the proposed rate increases were necessitated by an overall decrease in the volume of use this year. To meet the treatment plant's operating costs, the county must collect about $2 million a year from its water customers and an additional $2.4 million from its sewer customers, he said.

The increases discussed last night would be in addition to proposed increases in utility connection fees and a new maintenance fee, which would partially pay for a planned $14 million water treatment plant at Piney Run Reservoir.

The increase would be about $10 a quarter for a household using the average of about 25,000 gallons of water each quarter, according to county figures. Such a household now pays $157.33 per quarter for water and sewer service. Under the proposed rate changes, it would be billed $167.85.

The county's public utility customers pay a base charge each quarter of $8.44 for water and $12.19 for sewer service, and usage fees that are based on the amount of water they use.

The county has a three-tier billing system. For the first 10,000 gallons of water used, customers are charged $1.97 per 1,000 gallons of water and $3.15 per 1,000 gallons of sewage treated. For the next 20,000 gallons of water used - between 10,001 and 30,000 gallons - customers are charged $2.44 per 1,000 gallons of water and $3.26 per 1,000 gallons of sewage treated. For every gallon over 30,000, customers are charged $1.68 per 1,000 gallons of water and $3.23 per 1,000 gallons of sewage treated.

Under Curfman's proposal, the base charges would be cut to $7.68 per quarter for water and $11.52 per quarter for sewer service, and the usage fees would rise. Up to 10,000 gallons, the charge would be $2.14 per 1,000 gallons of water and $3.17 per 1,000 gallons of sewage. Between 10,001 and 30,000 gallons, the charge would be $2.97 per 1,000 gallons of water and $3.40 per 1,000 gallons of sewage. After using 30,000 gallons, customers would pay $2.30 per 1,000 gallons of water and $3.31 per 1,000 gallons of sewage.

Public meetings on the proposed rate changes for the next fiscal year are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. today at Pleasant Valley fire hall, 2030 Pleasant Valley Road, Westminster; 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at North Carroll High School, 1400 Panther Drive, Hampstead; and 7:30 p.m. Monday at Francis Scott Key High School, 3825 Bark Hill Road, Union Bridge.

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