November 20, 2019

West Branch schedules public hearing on new sewer rates


WEST BRANCH — The city of West Branch will be holding a public hearing to discuss a proposed sewer rate increase of $4.85 per thousand gallons for city residents.

The hearing is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 5, at 7:05 p.m., at City Hall.

City Manager Tom Youatt said at the Sept. 21 West Branch city council meeting that the rates need to increase to pay for the debt created by both the water and sewer projects currently being done in the city.

“We’ve got our charges now, but because we don’t have debt on water, we don’t have debt on sewer,” Youatt said. “So we’ve just been paying for operation and maintenance on the water system and operation and maintenance on the sewer system. Now we’ve got to take care of our debt for both the water project — $975,000 — and basically it’s $1.04 per thousand gallons extra for water to cover the water debt. And for the sewer plant and the relining of the sewer mains, it’s $4.85 to cover the $14,020,000 in debt there.”

Youatt said that while the increase will be significant for users, it is much less than what was originally anticipated.

“Where we stared out with sewer, we were looking at $8.51 per thousand gallons for the sewer bill if we were going through DEQ (for funding), and assuming some certain things,” Youatt said. “We’ve gone from $8.51 down to $4.85. And the reason we’ve been able to do that, to bring that debt cost down, is because of Rural Development 40 years, we’ve gotten 2.5 percent interest rate, which is very low, we’ve also got tremendous bids from the contractors. The total bids for the whole sewer project were almost $2 million less (than anticipated).”

“The combination of those things has led us to be able to drop the rate that we had originally looked at, so that’s good news for our customers,” Youatt continued. “It’s still a big, big impact. We know that. And it’s not easy. But we have to the wastewater plant and the sewer mains and we have to do the water project. So we’ve done what we can to keep it down as low as we can for our customers.”

The way the billing structure will work for customers in the city of West Branch is there will be a minimum charge for water of $17.50, and a minimum charge for sewer of $53.20. Customers will then be charged an additional 1.04 per thousand gallons for water usage, and $4.85 per thousand gallons for sewer.

Therefore, once council approves the new rates, if a customer uses 1,000 gallons, their total bill would be $76.59 for the quarter.

Youatt reiterated at the meeting that there are no plans to switch to a monthly billing cycle, but customers that are struggling are able to make payments to the city.

For more information on the new water and sewer rates, contact city hall at 989-345-0500.


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