Whitesburg KY
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Mostly clear

Whitesburg is forced to raise water, sewer rates

Faced with losing a large chunk of the outside funding needed to help pay for its share of a new city/county wastewater treatment plant, the City of Whitesburg is raising the rates it charges for municipal water and sewer service.

The rate increases are included in an emergency ordinance approved unanimously by the Whitesburg City Council. The council took the action on January 11, during a special meeting called to answer the demands of the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority (KIA), which is lending the city an extra $1 million to help fund the new sewer plant.

The new rates include a minimum bill for water of $9.40 within city limits and $20.00 per month per customer outside city limits for the first 2,000 gallons or less. Users within city limits will then pay $3.50 for the next 2,000 gallons, and $3.75 for the next 2,000. Customers outside city limits will pay $7.00 for the second 2,000 gallons and $7.50 for the next 2,000.

Sewer rates, which are based on water usage, will reflect a basic charge for users in the city limits of $6.80 per month for the first 2,000 gallons or less and $4.60 per thousand gallons after the first 2,000. Customers outside city limits will pay $9.86 and $6.67 respectively. Beginning July 1, sewer rates will go up again to $9.86 for the first 2,000 gallons and $6.67 per 1,000 gallons extra for city users and $11.84 and $7.67 for users outside city limits.

News that the council was being ordered to raise the rates came on January 8, when Wastewater Project Engineer Kevin Howard addressed the council at its January meeting. Howard told the council that KIA had made the rate changes a condition of the loan and wanted the higher rates put in place immediately. Howard said the new rates are necessary to correct a long time imbalance in the city’s water and sewer funds, which essentially had been causing the city to rob Peter to pay Paul in the form of taking money out of the water fund to balance the sewer fund.

The rates are included in Ordinance 381, which will go into effect immediately upon being published in The Mountain Eagle, the county’s newspaper of record, and will be retroactive though January 1. The changes will appear on the January water and sewer bills.

The necessity of borrowing the $1 million came about because it took so long for the funding package for the wastewater plant to come together. Howard informed the city council at its September meeting that the restructuring was necessary. Craft told the council last week that he had put the raises off as long as possible to spare the citizens of Whitesburg the extra expense.

Howard said the extra million dollars was necessary because during the time it took to get all the funding agencies lined up for the project, events like Hurricane Katrina and market pressure from other nations had caused the price of building materials to increase dramatically.

Howard said none of the companies bidding on the construction of the project would be able to complete the plant for the original bid prices, and that since the bids hadn’t been locked in at the original cost estimate the added charges would be necessary.

On July 1, 2009, sewer rates will be raised again by 11.75 percent. These rates also reflect the demands of the KIA, which is part of the Governor’s Office for Local Development (GOLD).

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