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Water rates could double for Orchard City residents

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The Orchard City Town Board at its Wednesday, March 8, meeting will act on a proposal which, if adopted, would double residential water rates.

For example, based on preliminary figures provided to the Delta County Independent, the monthly base charge in-town would rise from $13 to $25, and the use rate for the first 20,000 gallons would rise from $0.99 per thousand gallons to $1.89 per thousand gallons. The proposal would drop the base useage tier from 30,000 gallons to 20,000 gallon.

The monthly outside-of-town base charge would rise from $17 to $32, and the use rate for the first 10,000 gallons would rise from $1.16 per thousand gallons to $2.20 per thousand gallons.

The proposal was discussed at length during the trustees' monthly work session on March 1. The proposed new full rate schedule was being finalized last week.

Other of the town's 16 different water rates would also increase. The increases would be felt "across the board," town officials said. The monthly $5 capital construction fee for residential users would remain the same.

If adopted, new in-town water rates for a single, residential, three-quarter-inch tap would be: $25 monthly base charge, plus $1.89 per thousand gallons on the first 20,000 gallons. The usage rates for additional gallons would be: 20,001 gallons to 30,000 gallons, $2.89 per thousand; 30,001 gallons to 40,000 gallons, $4.34 per thousand; 40,001 gallons to 50,000 gallons, $7.59 per thousand; and, 50,001 gallons and up, $12.65 per thousand.

If adopted, the out-of-town water rates for a single, residential, three-quarter-inch tap would be $32 monthly base charge plus $2.20 per thousand gallons for the first 10,000 gallons. The use rates for additional gallons would be: 10,001 to 20,000 gallons, $4.34 per thousand; 20,001 to 30,000 gallons, $7.59 per thousand; 30,001 gallons and up, $12.65 per thousand.

At a Feb. 1 work session and community meeting on new sources of town government revenue, residents expressed support for incresing water rates. But at that meeting no specific rate plans were offered by officials.

A lengthy back-and-forth exchange of views among trustees at last week's work session included discussion of the following statements:

• If approved, the new rates would take effect May 1.

• Even if the new rates are adopted, additional annual "adjustment" increases might be required beginning in 2018.

• A goal of the increased rate regimen would be over the course of several years to double the water fund's cash reserve balance to $2 million.

• Orchard City's water utility is tightly run and has encountered average annual cost increases of 7.4 percent over the past eight years without imposing a rate increase during that time.

• The town's last water rate increase was in 2008.

• The proposed increases will bring the town's water rates to a level they would have been at if the annual 7.4 percent cost increases had been added to each of the past eight annual budgets.

• The proposed rates would place Orchard City "in the middle of the pack" compared with water rates of neighboring municipalities and domestic water suppliers.

• The town's water utility has hit the 80-percent of capacity threshold where planning for an additional filtering unit at the town's water treatment plant is required by the state. Current cost of the expansion is estimated at $200,000.

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