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Belmont adopts water, sewer rates

BELMONT — Water customers will pay $5.37 more for using 2,000 gallons in a month after Belmont Village Council adopted a new water and sewer rate structure that its members believe is more fair.

Water Board President Kenny Davis said village water customers currently pay $52.63 per month for up to 2,000 gallons of water and sewage. Customers are then charged 1.37 cents per gallon for additional consumption, leading to bills of $66.42 per month for 3,000 gallons or $80.21 per month for 4,000 gallons. Sewer service billing is based on a customer’s amount of water usage. Belmont County treats sewage for the village, which does not have its own sewage treatment plant, and bills the community accordingly.

The current bill for 2,000 gallons breaks down as follows: $15.22 for 2,000 gallons of water; $36.17 for sewer service, based on 2,000 gallons of water usage; and $1.24 for the meter fee.

Under the new rate structure, which takes effect Jan. 1 and includes a base rate of $20, a customer using 2,000 gallons of water will pay $58 per month. The total amount is calculated by using the $20 base charge; $15 for 2,000 gallons of water; and $23 for sewer service, based on that amount of water usage. The total monthly increase for 2,000 gallons comes to $5.37.

Mayor Stanley Sobel said the new ordinance, which council unanimously approved Thursday on third reading, will base billing on the total amount of water a customer consumes during each billing period. During the meeting, village officials said customers who use less water likely will see their water bills decrease, while those who use more can expect to see their bills go up.

“The thing is, people like the elderly or someone who lives alone is paying the same amount as someone who is using way more water,” said Ricky Burkhead, Belmont’s fiscal officer. “So this could actually lower rates for some people but make them higher for other people.

“I am the fiscal officer over in Bethesda as well, and they had a similar change and I saw how that played out. I think it would be a good and fair change for the village.”

Sobel said the village has 272 water customers. Davis estimated that average usage is 2,500-4,500 gallons per month. Under the new rates, monthly bills for those amounts of usage would range from $67.50 to $105.50, respectively.

People who typically use less than 2,000 gallons per month will no longer pay the $52.63 charge for the minimum amount. Instead, each customer will be billed for the $20 base rate with additional amounts based strictly on usage. Davis said water will be billed at a rate of 7.5 cents per 10 gallons and 11.5 cents per 10 gallons for sewer service for a combined total of 19 cents per 10 gallons.

A customer who uses just 1,000 gallons of water, then, would be billed the $20 base rate along with $7.50 for water and $11.50 for sewer service for a total bill of $39 — a decrease of $13.63 per month.

Water meters will be read on a monthly basis, and customers still will be billed on the first of the following month.

Sobel said the new ordinance will make the rates fair for everyone.

“I think that is fair for the people of Belmont,” Sobel said. “People will be able to look at their bill and decide the following month if they want to lower it by conserving the water. People who were using 1,000 gallons were paying the same price as people who were using 2,000 gallons. It just wasn’t fair how it has been done, and it will also give more money back to the village this way.”

Davis said the $20 base rate will cover debt service for the village, including $49,500 spent for a recent tank repair. He said money generated by the water department pays for all the chemicals used to treat the water, products used to keep the department running and wages. He noted that at least two village employees spend about one-third of their time working on water department business, so the department pays one-third of their wages.

He agreed with Sobel that the rate change may prompt high-end users to be more careful in an effort to lower their bills.

“It could be a conservation measure, too,” Davis said. “It might make them tighten up a little bit. It will help a lot of the elderly people who don’t use water like they (high-end users) would.”

Davis added that village officials created the new rate structure at the recommendation of RCAP, or the Rural Community Assistance Partnership — a national network of nonprofits that provides technical assistance, training, resources and support to rural communities. He noted that Burkhead has experience with a similar change due to his role in Bethesda municipal government and believes that the new billing system will make it easier for auditors to trace money on the water department’s books.

“RCAP formulated this. It will be easier for Ricky to do his work,” Davis said. “For auditors this will be a better system.”

Staff Writers Miranda Sebroski and Jennifer Compston-Strough contributed to this report.

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