Public hearing on rate increase to be heard

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By Jennifer Garcia

Los Alamos residents could see a hike in sewer rates if the county council adopts Code Ordinance 02-100.

A public hearing will be held at tonight’s 7 p.m. council meeting, during which time council will consider the increase. The meeting will be held in council chambers.

If they adopt the ordinance, residents can expect their monthly bill to increase by about $4, while the minimum monthly residential bill would increase by about $2.

According to a press release from the Department of Public Utilities, the sewer rate structure is comprised of two parts and includes a fixed charge and a variable rate (a set rate applied to variable water usage). The fixed charge covers a customer connection to the DPU sewer system so that wastewater is effectively transported away from the customer site to be treated safely at local wastewater treatment facilities.

Based on the customer’s consumption of potable water, the variable rate reflects the quantity of wastewater treated.

Deputy Utility Manager for Finance Janet Bettinger said, “We can estimate the impact of the proposed rate increase on an average family of four with two young children in a single family detached dwelling, with an average monthly sewer bill of $41. The rate increase would bring the new total to $45. Similarly, the minimum monthly sewer bill of $21.70 would increase to $23.70. In these two cases, the overall impact is an additional $4 and $2 per month, respectively.”

Commercial customers would see a proposed fixed charge increase of $1.10 per month for commercial customers and residential customers that are individually metered and $0.70 per dwelling, per month, for residential customers that are not individually metered.

The proposed variable rate increase for all customer classes is $0.45.

The press release further states the increases would change the fixed rate for commercial and individually metered residential customers from $14 per month, to $13.10 per month.

For non-individually metered customers, the fixed charge would change from $7.50 to $8.20 per dwelling, per month. The variable rate for all customer classes would change from $4.85 to $5.30 per 1,000 gallons of water, with a 2,000-gallon minimum.

Tim Glasco, deputy utilities manager for Gas, Water and Sewer said where the money gained from the increases will go.

“Part of the reason for the proposed increase is to cover a portion of the debt service on the new Los Alamos Wastewater Treatment Plant that began operation in 2007. We are also proactively addressing existing sewer maintenance issues as our community infrastructure ages. For instance, two lift stations pump wastewater uphill to the gravity collection system, were replaced with modem equipment late last year in White Rock.”