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Posted April 22, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Middletown, Stephens City face higher water, sewer bills

By Alex Bridges

Middletown residents can expect to pay higher water bills this summer, while Stephens City officials hope to avoid a 40-percent increase in January.

Middletown Town Council holds a public hearing Monday on proposed higher water rates. But Mayor Charles Harbaugh IV said recently the town has no choice but to raise the rates to levels set through a 2011 agreement.

Winchester provides water to Middletown at a wholesale rate. Middletown then passes down the rate increase to the residential and business customers.

In Stephens City, the town receives its water from the Frederick County Sanitation Authority. Town Manager Mike Kehoe said Monday he did not anticipate the authority would raise rates this coming fiscal year based on information the agency provided to him. However, in a March 28 letter to Kehoe, authority engineer-director Uwe E. Weindel informed Kehoe of changes to the cost to supply water and to treat sewage.

Rates for water in the first half of fiscal year 2014 increase from $1.17 to $1.18 per 1,000 gallons per month effective July 1. However, the rate increases to $1.64 per 1,000 gallons in the second half of the fiscal year beginning Jan. 1, which would mark a 40-percent increase over the current rate.

Water rates for the town have increased every year since FY 2009.

Weindel explains in the letter that the authority based the rates for the first half of the fiscal year on the cost of living index and the second half on the cost of treating water.

The authority plans to increase the rates it charges to treat Stephens City's wastewater. A March 15, 2012 letter from Weindel shows a town rate of $2.89 per 1,000 gallons per month. The authority plans to raise the rate to $3.28 per 1,000 gallons - an increase of 13.5 percent. Kehoe pointed out that sewer rates for the town have more than doubled in a short time - from $1.50 in fiscal 2009 to the proposed levy of $3.28 in the next year.

Weindel stated in the March 28 letter the authority based the proposed rate on the cost to operate and maintain the wastewater treatment plant and the removal of rags at the Stephens City Pump Station.

Middletown leaders met earlier this month to consider proposed increases in the rates charged for water by all users. An ordinance that includes the proposed changes comes before Town Council on first and second reading. The town last raised water rates in April 2011.

Users in the category for residential and individual family apartments pay the service charge of $12 per. The rate for each 1,000 gallons used in a billing cycle increases from $6.45 to $7.35 under the proposed ordinance.

A resident or family using 3,000 gallons in a month would see the water bill increase by $1.80 from $24.90 to $26.70 or approximately 7 percent. The annual cost would increase from $298.80 to $320.40. A bill for 7,000 gallons would increase from $50.70 to $56.10 per month or from $608.40 to $673.20 per year.

The proposed ordinance also calls for increasing other rates in Middletown. The commercial rate would increase from $7.42 to $8.46 per 1,000 gallons under the ordinance. Commercial users pay a $20 service charge.

The ordinance calls for the industrial rate to increase from $12.93 to $14.74 per 1,000. Industrial users pay a $35 service charge.

The rate for non-profit organizations would increase from $5.37 to $6.12 per 1,000 gallons. Non-profit users do not pay a service charge.

Residential, commercial and industrial users outside town limits pay an additional 50 cents.

The city charges Middletown a wholesale rate of $5.35 per 1,000 gallons of water used. This rate increases by 75 cents to $6.10 per 1,000 gallons on June 1. The town then charges slightly higher rates to users.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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