2007-10-18 / Front Page

Council considers restructuring the town's water rates

By Tom Shevlin

In an effort to get a better handle on the island's water use, Town Councilors on Monday discussed the possibility of restructuring the town's water and sewer rates in order to take advantage of recent improvements to the town's water infrastructure.

Sitting as the Water and Sewer Commission for the last time before next month's elections, councilors discussed several courses of action with Department of Public Works Director Steve Goslee including restructuring rates to reflect Jamestown's successful conservation efforts.

Broadly defining the commission's concerns, Council Vice President Julio DiGiando said that he felt it was important to determine who the island's thirstiest consumers were. "We need to find out who the big users are and how many there are," DiGiando said.

Town Administrator Bruce Keiser agreed and recommended a "comprehensive retooling" of the island's rate structure.

The move by councilors to reexamine the town's rate structure comes less than two months after adopting a two-part rate increase in order to bridge gaps left in the water and sewer budget due in part to decreased water usage and consequent revenue.

Specifically citing increased debt service payments for the town's recent water and sewer upgrades and declining water revenue due to a successful conservation program, councilors took the step in August to raise rates by 15- percent for the minimum charge and 23- percent for excess water use.

The rate increase, which appeared on ratepayers' Oct. 1 bill, was the second in three years, and follows a trend of decreasing perperson water use on the island. According to Goslee, the average Jamestown resident uses 37 gallons of water per day compared with 70 gallons of water per day for the average Rhode Islander.

In light of the improvements made thus far to the island's infrastructure, and in anticipation of additional improvements coming on line, Councilor William Kelly suggested it was time the town reexamine those ordinances which place restrictions island water use.

"I think we can be optimistic with the changes coming on board," Kelly said.

In other business, town councilors discussed the practice of having applicants appear in front of the Water and Sewer Commission during renovations.

Island facing drought conditions

Jamestown is faced with "pretty moderate drought conditions," according to Goslee.

Goslee reported on Monday that the island experienced its fifth straight month with below-average rainfall. That shortage has left the town reservoir dangerously close to triggering a new round of water restrictions.

At 47 inches below capacity, the reservoir stands just one inch above the 48-inch threshold requiring additional water restrictions.

According to town ordinance, individuals on the municipal water system are prohibited from lawn irrigation, house, boat, and residential car washing between June 1 and Oct. 31. Additional restrictions prohibiting commercial car washing go into effect when resbe ervoir level exceeds 4-feet below capacity.

If the dry pattern extends through the winter, Goslee cautioned that town action may be required heading into next year's summer season.

In other business, Goslee also reported that the lack of rain has contributed to an excellent water quality in North Pond.

In addition, Goslee noted that the town's water treatment plant was operating at 99 percent effi- ciency while full construction on the treatment plant improvement project is set to begin within the next week while construction on the new water tower was complete. With the new tower online, the old tower, which is due for maintenance, could be emptied for service in the coming weeks.

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