2007-08-23 / Front Page

Water and sewer rates to climb in next billing cycle

By Tom Shevlin

Jamestown residents will be paying more for water they are not using under two budgets adopted by town councilors sitting as the Water and Sewer Commission on Monday.

Facing increased debt service payments for the town's recent water and sewer upgrades and declining water revenue, town officials have been faced with a curious paradox. As the town successfully realizes its goal to conserve water with residents' water use dropping, the town has experienced a noticeable drop in revenue leaving gaps in the town's water and sewer budgets.

That means island water customers will see their rates rise for the second time in just over three years. The town last increased water and sewer rates in May 2004.

According to Town Administrator Bruce Keiser, water revenue has declined somewhat signifi- cantly in recent years. As a result, Jamestown ratepayers will experience a 15- percent rate increase for the minimum charge and a 23- percent increase for excess water use in their water and sewer bills this year.

That should come as no surprise to residents who approved the funding of various improvements to the town's water infrastructure, including the installation of a town pipeline and the rehabilitation of the water treatment plant.

"We all knew this was coming" Councilman Julio DiGiando said.

Under the current rate structure, Jamestown water customers currently pay a flat fee of anywhere between $183.67 and $1,524.61 per year depending on their meter size, plus an additional $3.43 to $13.03 for every 1,000 gallons over 20,000 gallons used. Those numbers will increase by 15 percent to approximately $211 to $1,752, respectively for minimum advance per year, and $4.22 to $16.03 per 1,000 gallons for excess water use. Meanwhile the town's sewer rates will also increase by 23 percent across the board.

The rate increase, which will go into effect in time for the next water and sewer bill to be issued on Oct. 1, is needed in order to meet the town's commitment to develop a long-term solution to protect the island's water supply according to town officials.

"This is a classic case of being caught between a rock and a hard place," Councilman William Kelly said.

According to council President David Long, the recommended rate increase was made based on data submitted at the request of a previous town council several years ago when the island was faced with critical water supply shortages and an aging infrastructure.

"We are where we are," Long said. "Eight years ago, the town was running out of water." Now, Jamestown is considered to be a model for its conservation efforts.

In other news:

• Department of Public Works Director Steve Goslee reported that pumping at the town transfer station was up over last month and up over the same period last year.

• Rainfall was below average for the third straight month and as a result, the North Reservoir had fallen 28 inches below the spillway.

• Painting on the town's new water tower is expected to wrap up Friday or Monday depending on weather.

• Commissioners also approved an application of Rosemary Tutsch for utility service expansion and change of use at 123A Narragansett Avenue for a planned hair salon and awarded the lease of a town housing unit at 4 Grinnell St. to Pierre and Michelle Pages.

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