Water/sewer rates to rise

Published 4:50 pm Sunday, June 8, 2014

JACKSON – Customers of the Northampton County Water System can expect an increase in their monthly bills beginning July 1.

At their meeting here last Monday, the county’s Board of Commissioners approved a plan that raises the water rate for the first time since July 2010. The new plan also impacts residential and commercial sewer accounts.

In his presentation to the commissioners, Northampton County Public Works Director Jason Morris explained that the water/sewer rate increases resulted from a study performed in November of last year by the North Carolina Rural Water Association.

“The recommendation that came out of this study resulted in a rate structure change to include a user fee that would cover the debt service cost, and that the rates needed to be set at a level to cover operation and maintenance of the water and sewer system,” Morris stated. “The increase in these rates can also help cover the cost of deprecation of the county’s water and sewer system.”

Morris’ reference to the rate structure drew questions from the commissioners. He answered by explaining there were different charges on the monthly bills depending on if a customer received water directly from the county or if the county was supplying water to a customer that was first purchased from a municipality.

“There are slight differences in our (billing) rates,” Morris noted, pointing out that a few pay a $21 monthly fee plus $5.50 per 1,000 gallons to as high as a $25 monthly flat fee with another $5.50 tacked on for each 1,000 gallons of usage.

The majority of Northampton County water customers (5,045 connections) are currently billed a flat monthly fee of $20, which includes 2,000 gallons of water. The newly approved plan calls for those customers to be billed a $19.50 monthly user fee plus a $5 charge for each 1,000 gallons of water. That means the average customer currently using 3,000 gallons of water per month will see their bill increase from $25 to $34.50.

Morris said the new plan (the new water rates) will apply evenly to everyone that is connected to the county’s water system.

For most, the $5 charge for each 1,000 gallons of water will apply. Those that consume more water per month (10,001 to 25,000 gallons) will pay the $19.50 plus $5.50 for each 1,000 gallons. That rate increases to $6 per 1,000 (for users of between 25,001 to 50,000 gallons); $6.50 per 1,000 (for 50,001 to 100,000 gallons), and $7 per 1,000 for monthly usage in excess of 100,000 gallons.

However, he noted that those who use less (zero to 999 gallons) will only be billed the $19.50 monthly user fee.

“That because we bill in 1,000-gallon increments,” Morris stated.

On the commercial side, those accounts will pay a $25.50 monthly flat fee plus an additional charge (per 1,000 gallons) of $6 (0-10,000 gallons), $7 (10,001-25,000 gallons), $7.50 (25,001-50,000), $8.50 (50,001-100,000 gallons) and $9.50 (in excess of 100,000 gallons).

The new rates are expected to add $783,736.80 annually to the water system’s budget, bringing the total revenue to $2.735 million. Morris said his department’s “break even” number (operating and maintenance costs) is $2.71 million annually.

The new plan also changes the sewer rates, which apply to 679 county customers. Currently, those customers pay monthly bills ranging from a $19 flat rate, to include the first 2,000 gallons, plus $5.50 per 1,000 additional gallons, to as high as a $19 flat rate plus $8.15 per 1,000 additional gallons.

The new rates will be uniform countywide for residential accounts. They will be a $25 monthly user fee plus $5.50 (per 1,000 gallons) for zero to 10,000 gallons; and then a 10-cent incremental increase (per 1,000 gallons) for 10,001-25,000 gallons; 25,001-50,000 gallons; 50,001-100,000 gallons; and in excess of 100,000 gallons.

On the commercial side of the new sewer rates, customers can expect a $30 monthly user fee plus (per 1,000 gallons) $7 for zero to 10,000 gallons; $7.50 for 10,001-25,000 gallons; $8 for 25,001-50,000 gallons; $8.50 for 50,001-100,000 gallons; and $9 in excess of 100,000 gallons.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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