City exploring raising sewer rates, again

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BUCKHANNON — Buckhannon City Council put its stamp of approval on a draft of a sewer rate increase ordinance at its meeting last Tuesday.
Now, the first official reading of Ordinance No. 419 — which would see sewer rates jump by about $4.80 a month for the average customer — is set for a vote at council’s regular meeting Thursday at 7 p.m. in city hall.
City attorney Tom O’Neill presented a draft of the ordinance at council’s meeting last Tuesday, which would see rates surge 10 percent 30 days after the ordinance is enacted and then a second 10 percent a year later, according to O’Neill and mayor David McCauley.
If the measure passes, the second of the two 10 percent increases — which scheduled to go into effect in 12 months — would be the third sewer rate increase the city has OK’ed in three years. In June 2016, council voted to increase sewer rates 20 percent, and that was effectuated in September 2016.
McCauley said the average customer would pay $4.80 more per month than he or she currently is.
For the first 2,000 gallons, the cost would be $12.06 per 1,000 gallons; for the next 12,000 gallons, the cost would be $10.09 per 1,000 gallons; and the following 36,000 gallons would cost $9.50 per 1,000 gallons, O’Neill added.
“The minimum bill would be $12.24 per month with flat rate users paying $49.35 for sewer service,” O’Neill said. “This isn’t a matter of ‘this is a nice thing to do’ or the sanitary board is somehow flush and we’re just adding this on.
“This rate increase is essential to maintain minimal levels of service, despite everything that the public works board has done to do things in-house and save literally hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years. The cost of operations has gone up and they have to be recouped by customers.”
O’Neill added the city had little choice in its decision to hike rates.
“While all things are really a matter of choice, there’s really very little in the way of options,” the city attorney continued. “We have to maintain certain standards or there will be consequences not only for failure to meet those standards from a legal perspective through DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) or worse EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), but also we’re going to have the practical realities of decreased water quality, and we don’t want that.”
Before the ordinance is executed, council must pass three readings of the ordinance and hold a public hearing, according to administrative and financial director Amberle Jenkins.
In other city news, council:  
Approved the expenditure of up to $2,800 for holiday banners and brackets.
Approved a motion to become a member of the Preservation Alliance of the W.Va. Historic Theatre Trail at no cost to the city.
Approved a request from St. Joseph’s Hospital to close Bosley Lane and Van Camp Lane and to exchange a section of its property currently adhering to Fink Lane in order to expand that alleyway for two-way traffic.
Approved a motion directing O’Neill to prepare a deed of dedication and a proposed resolution of acceptance enabling the city of Buckhannon to receive approximately three acres of riverfront property from John Moss.

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