Cumberland Times-News

June 14, 2013

Many in county will see increased water, sewer rates

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — Allegany County Commissioners have approved water and sewer rate increases that will affect citizens to a greater or lesser degree depending on where they live. The rate increases are largely the product of water and sewer upgrades required by state and federal mandates, officials said.

All funding for water and sewer comes from users of the system; no money is used from the general fund, said Mark Yoder, the county’s utilities division chief. Some rates will go down, mainly sewer front footage charges, Yoder said.

The vote on approving the water and sewer rates was 2-1, with Commissioner Creade Brodie Jr. voting no. Brodie did not offer an explanation for his vote.

When they receive their next water and sewer bills, Cresaptown and Jennings Run customers will see the largest increases. Jennings Run customers will see an $8 increase per quarter for sewer surcharges, while Cresaptown customers will pay $9 more per quarter for water service fees, according to a report from county staff.

The new rates for Cresaptown customers will be phased in over three years, with another increase planned in 2015.

Most increases will be $2 to $3 per quarter or less — that’s about a dollar a month, Yoder has said. Water and sewer rates in the county have been held artificially low, causing the water and wastewater systems to operate at a deficit. County policy is to make small increases on a regular basis rather than hit customers hard after years of no increases, according to the staff report.

The county will likely be adding more customers in the future, and that will mean further expense to the county to upgrade those systems.

“Federal drinking water and wastewater standards will continue to force most small community systems out of business and have them seeking absorption into ... the county,” according to the staff report. “This addition of high-cost, low-volume systems will further stress the water system budgets,” the staff report reads.

Rates could increase further during the fiscal year should water and sewer suppliers to the county increase rates.

The cities of Cumberland and Keyser, W.Va., are planning rate increases, Yoder said.

Cumberland’s rates for handling county wastewater increased 15 percent during 2011, resulting in about $250,000 in increased costs per year. Cumberland is expected to add another 15 percent in 2014.

Keyser’s rates could rise as much as 30 percent, Yoder said.

“The county must continue to seek to achieve more favorable water and sewer rates from the municipalities. ... Water purchase costs account for over half of our total water systems budgets,” the staff report said.

Details of the water and sewer rates, and an explanation of policy, are posted on the county website at http://gov.allconet.org/.

The decision was made during the June 6 county commission business meeting at county offices on Kelly Road. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.