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By M.K. Lutheremail@example.com
FRONT ROYAL -- The Town Council on Monday approved increasing water rates to $6.95 and sewer rates to about $10 for up to 3,000 gallons.
In-town water customers now pay $6.75 for 3,000 gallons of water and $7.75 for 3,000 gallons of sewer service.
The ordinance passed 5-1, with Councilman Thomas Sayre voting against. The rates go into effect Feb. 1.
The town has been forced to raise water and sewer rates to generate more revenue to support the operating costs. The town is also having to spend close to $45 million on an upgrade to the wastewater treatment plant.
The council had been presented with three options from Burnham & Associates, all using a rate structure meant to create at least 3 percent increase in water revenue and 30 percent increase in sewer revenue.
The second rate option presented by Burnham & Associates raised rates to $7.90 for up to 3,000 gallons of water and $11.60 for sewer. The third option would have charged $7.33 for water and $10.43 for sewer.
During the public hearing held prior to the vote, residents asked council to reconsider the rate increase.
Mary Dykes, of the Northern Virginia Education Center, asked the council to consider the impact rate increases will have on businesses and organizations.
"Additional water and sewer increases may force cutbacks and will affect how money is spent in Front Royal," Dykes said.
"We realize the water treatment is expensive," Dykes said. "But don't close the door to the thousands of boys and girls who come to the camp."
Bruce Rappaport of Front Royal asked the council to work with the county to offset any lost revenue from the 340-522 corridor instead of increasing rates for customers.
"This is not the way to penalize the citizens of Front Royal to pay the buck," Rappaport said.
"Being a town water customer, I understand the plight everyone feels in this," Councilman N. Shae Parker said. "This isn't any back door deals for the town to try to create revenue.
"I don't like increases, but option 1 is the most equitable to customers and businesses," Parker said.
Councilman Thomas Conkey said the water and sewer rate increase is "a huge balancing act"
"There is logic that says if businesses are out there making money and they are using our water to make money, and we should charge them for it." Conkey said.
"There is other logic that says if you do that, you drive them out and make it impossible for businesses to work and live in this community."