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Davies responds to Bridgeport water rate increase

MARTINS FERRY — Following Bridgeport Village Council’s approval of a 23% increase to its water rates, Martins Ferry Mayor John Davies wants to clarify that his city did not impose that much of a rate hike on the village.

Bridgeport buys water from Martins Ferry — an arrangement that was made after some of Bridgeport’s own wells were found to be contaminated. Although the city does plan to raise water rates in the coming year,

Davies said the cost will only be raised by 81 cents on 1,000 gallons or $1.62 on 2,500 gallons. That is compared to the 23% increase, or $10.73 hike on up to 2,500 gallons, implemented by Bridgeport for its customers that will go into effect in January. Bridgeport currently charges $46.64 for the first 2,500 gallons used per month. Beginning next year, the minimum bill will be raised to $57.37.

Davies took offense to a statement by a Bridgeport Village Council member who said during last week’s meeting that the rate hike was due to a need to “match” what the city is charging the village, which Davies said is not accurate. He termed the statement “completely misleading.”

“We just want the facts to be represented properly. Now if their financial planning committee wanted them to raise it by $10, that’s OK, I don’t have a problem with that. It has nothing to do with Martins Ferry, but they should have explained that,” he said.

Davies said the city currently charges Bridgeport $3.50 per 1,000 gallons of water. Beginning Jan. 1, it will charge the village $4.31 per 1,000 gallons. He added that the city does not charge extra for residents that exceed 2,500 gallons.

He said the city did implement a 23% increase on bulk rate but not on residential customers.

According to the ordinance approved by Bridgeport Village Council last week, the new rate for the first 2,500 gallons per month is $57.37; 2,501-50,000 gallons per month is an additional $12.73; and over 50,000 gallons is an additional $5.78.

Solicitor Michael Shaheen said during Bridgeport council’s meeting that the rate increase was made to match an increase implemented by the city of Martins Ferry and also to comply with the recommendations of the Financial Planning and Supervision Committee, though he and council members did not specify the exact change that either had made or recommended.

Davies said the village’s future increase does not “match” what the city’s rate increase. He added that the city charges a flat rate that does not increase regardless of the gallons used.

“Our costs are the same,” he said. “It’s $3.50 per 1,000 gallons. I don’t care if you use a million gallons, it’s still $3.50 per 1,000 gallons, it doesn’t change.”

In July 2020, Bridgeport was forced to shut down its water source after the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency discovered that two of five of the village’s wells tested positive for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. The following year, the village successfully completed the waterline connection between the two municipalities and signed an agreement to purchase water from the city.

Davies said the city initially “lost money” selling water to the village in an effort to “help them out.”

“The cost that we gave them was actually cheaper than what we can maintain water for. We were just trying to help them get financial stability. It wasn’t costing us a whole lot of money, but we just weren’t making any money. We were just trying to help them get a little bit of financial security with the problems they were having down there,” he said.

Davies said the upcoming increase is due to inflation costs and to “break even” with the costs of maintaining its water system.

“We’re still trying to be a good neighbor and help our neighbors out. … We’re all one big community in reality,” he said.

In response, Bridgeport Mayor Norma Teasdale clarified that the village’s rate increase was due to three factors including the village no longer receiving steady income from Belmont County purchasing its water, a state auditor’s recommendation and the increase implemented by the city.

“Belmont County stopped buying water daily and now only buys it periodically when necessary, so that cuts down on our amount of income for the department. The auditors wanted us to raise it higher, and with the increase from Martins Ferry. Those three things affected the need for a raise,” she said. “The auditors recommended that due to our financial situation that we had to raise the water rates in order to be in the black.”

Teasdale said she apologized to Davies for the misunderstanding that may have given residents the impression that the rate hike was only due to the city’s price increase.

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