WELLSVILLE -Wellsville homeowners will see a boost in their sewer rates come the new year. Village council passed an ordinance at their regular meeting Tuesday evening establishing new sewerage fees effective Jan. 1, 2013.
While the minimum rate itself has actually dropped a dollar, the usage minimum limit has also gone down by 30 percent, coupled with a higher overage fee, resulting in a higher overall payment schedule.
The existing charge has been $21.07 for the first 3,000 gallons used per month, with a rate of $6.19 per thousand for all usage over 3,000 gallons. Starting next year, the charge will be $20.07 for the first 2,000 gallons used per month, with a rate of $7.50 per thousand for all usage over 2,000 gallons.
Councilwoman Diane Dinch, chair of the village finance committee, said it was a difficult decision the committee members know will be unpopular, but a combination of factors make the rate hike necessary. "It's not anything we wanted to do, but it comes down to we can't find any other way to make it work," she said.
Dinch said village has 1,534 customers for it sewerage, which is handled by United Water at their wastewater treatment facility on 16th Street, which is down from a customer base over 1,800 several years ago. Of those customers, 833 are using 2,000 gallons or less per month at the current rate. She said those revenues aren't enough to maintain the current service and keep up with associated debts.
"What it boils down to is, we're not generating enough money to make our loan payments and operate our plant," Dinch said.
Dinch estimates the loss of population in recent years has resulted in roughly 200 fewer customers for the sewer plant. The closure of businesses and facilities that used large volumes of water, including the Sterling China works and MacDonald Elementary School, have resulted in an even steeper drop in demand for the facility's services. She also suggested that village residents replacing older toilets and washing machines with newer, more water-efficient units was a factor.
Insufficient funding to pay United Water to operate the facility would necessitate in the village taking over operations. This would be very problematic, Dinch says, because Wellsville has no current employees qualified to run the plant. She also said keeping the keeping facility up to code is crucial. Failing to do so would result in heavy sanctions from the Environmental Protection Agency, costing the village huge losses in fines.
Dinch used the example of Wellsville's former fresh water plant as a example of what can happen when the village is forced to handle such operations on its own with insufficient funding. She reminded residents that the village eventually became unable to maintain the old reservoir and operate the former treatment plant, resulting in crushing punitive fines from the EPA. "That's how Buckeye Water ended up taking over our water," she said.