2013-02-09 / News

Thornville water, sewer rates increasing in April

By Scott Rawdon

THORNVILLE – Village residents will see an increase in water and sewer rates in April, assuming village council members approve an ordinance to do so during the Feb. 11 council meeting.

The ordinance takes away the 2,000 gallons of “free” water ($1.15) and sewer ($5) use rates. The $40 monthly charge per customer to repay an OWDA loan will be reduced to $38. However, that OWDA repayment fee and the $3 monthly storm sewer charge would now be charged to all households regardless of whether their water is turned on or not. Most households will see an increase of roughly $10.30 per month.

The village held a public meeting Jan. 29 to answer residents’ questions. “I thought it was a nice public meeting,” said Thornville Administrator Beth Patrick. She said about a dozen people attended, who asked a wide range of questions.

“Initially the meeting was more structured so that residents who so desired would be able to voice their concerns,” said Mayor Gavin Renner, adding that later the meeting was more informal. He said residents asked many good questions, which he answered.

Question: Will recently installed water lines from Southern Perry County at Sheridan High School impact the current water contract with Thornville?

Answer: Renner said currently the water district servicing those new lines charges $4.20 per 1,000 gallons. Thornville’s current water contract with the county charges $2.75 per 1,000 gallons making Thornville’s water more economical.

Question: There were concerns raised that high water rates and taps fees would reduce growth in the village instead of encouraging it.

Answer: Currently Thornville’s water and sewer rates are fairly low compared to similar communities. “We’ve noted that proposed increases in Baltimore and Somerset fall in the $30 to $40 range whereas our proposed increase would be $10.30 (per month),” said Renner. “This increase will still mean our rates are lower than other communities.” Renner believes Thornville’s tap fees are competitive with other local communities. “We have been fortunate to see two new builds in the last year, which does show promise that the economic picture is improving,” he said. Renner said people can decide to build in township areas as well, however they would likely need to invest in leach fields and septic systems to meet EPA requirements.

Question: Why does Thornville have hard water?

Answer: “We’re fortunate to have a clean water source,” said Renner. “The hardness is due to the fact that it isn’t extensively treated.” Building a water treatment plant could cost up to $4 million. “Investing would mean additional increases and potentially more debt for the village,” said the mayor. To qualify for grants, the combined billing rate for water and sewer would need to average $120 per month.

Question: Why are water bills inconsistent from month to month?

Answer: “A few residents mentioned that it seems like the bills fluctuate month-to-month. We plan to look into this and determine how extensive that is and whether it’s related to use patterns or if there is a problem that needs to be addressed,” said Renner. He said potentially the village could look at inviting more free programs to the community to encourage reduced use of water such as rain barrel programs and low-water landscaping that would allow for conservation.

“As I’ve said in the past, I feel there is a need for a minor increase in rates,” said Renner. Currently cost increases in equipment, chemicals and personnel are increasing the village’s expenses. “My main concern is ensuring that those costs don’t outweigh the revenues that are collected, creating a deficit,” he said. “While we are currently in a fairly comfortable position financially, I expect that our infrastructure maintenance costs will rise, as the sewer plant is mid-way through its lifecycle.” He said the village also has some immediate needs such as rebuilding the ultraviolet treatment system at the plant, addressing I&I issues, and repainting the village water tower, which is likely to take place this year.

Patrick said if council approvesthe ordinance at its next meeting, the rate changes will begin with the April billing cycle.

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