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Current utility revenue generated is $2.8 million; authorities say another $3.5 million is needed
By Ben Orcuttfirstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- As of Feb. 1, town utility customers will pay more for water and sewer service.
The Town Council voted 3-2 on Monday to increase the water and sewer rates.
Councilman Carson C. Lauder Jr. was joined in the majority by N. Shae Parker and Hollis L. Tharpe, while Vice Mayor Chris W. Holloway and Councilman Thomas H. Sayre voted against the rate hikes.
Councilman Thomas E. Conkey was absent from Monday's meeting due a previous out-of-town commitment, Mayor Timothy W. Darr said.
Town water customers will see their monthly rate increase from $6.75 for up to 3,000 gallons of water to $6.95. For a three-quarter-inch water tap, the connection fee decreased from $5,000 to $4,000 due to Monday's vote.
On the sewer side, customers currently pay $7.75 for up to 3,000 gallons and will see their rate increase to $10.08. The connection fee for a three-quarter-inch sewer tap increased from $5,000 to $7,500.
There was no discussion preceding Monday's vote.
The driving forces behind raising the rates are a sagging economy, increased costs, and the federal mandate through the Chesapeake Bay Act for an upgrade to the wastewater treatment plant.
Based on a recent overview by Burton & Associates of St. Augustine, Fla., the town's consultant on the fee hikes, the plan was to raise the water rates enough to generate a 3 percent increase in revenue, and increase the sewer rates enough to generate a 30 percent increase in revenue.
Burton & Associates presented the town with three options for accomplishing the increase in revenue, with one option being basically an across-the-board hike that would affect residents and businesses fairly evenly. The other two options put more of a burden on the higher-volume users.
Monday's vote was for the across-the-board increase in the water and sewer rates.
Town staff say that currently, the sewer service generates $2.8 million annually in revenue, but that with debt and operations costs once the estimated $45 million wastewater treatment plant is in place, another $3.5 million in annual revenue will be necessary. The cost of the upgrade includes design, construction, and accrued interest during construction.