Vote possible at Thursday meeting

Last updated: April 16. 2014 1:29PM - 1198 Views
Sarah Hawley shawley@civitasmedia.com

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MEIGS COUNTY — Rumors and conversations have been abuzz this week in Rutland as residents received letters from the Meigs County Commissioners about a possible rate increase for water and sewer customers.

Meigs County Commissioner Randy Smith took time Wednesday to discuss the proposed resolution that would set new water and sewer rates for the customers in Rutland.

A letter, along with a draft of the proposed resolution, has been mailed to customers in Rutland over the past week, letting residents know of the potential changes.

Currently, a minimum bill for Rutland water and sewer customers is $65. That bill includes $27 for 2,000 gallons of water; $20.25 for 2,000 gallons of sewer; $16.75 for sewer debt; and $1 for a service charge. Charges in excess of the minimum (2,000 gallons) are currently at $9 per 1,000 gallons for both water and sewer, meaning if someone used 3,000 gallons of water would pay a bill of $83.

This was the pricing structure in place when commissioners took responsibility of the water and sewer operations.

The resolution establishes the following rates: $30.50 for the first 2,000 gallons of sewer; $30.50 for the first 2,000 gallons of water; and the $1 service charge. The minimum bill would then be $72. Water and sewer used over the minimum would be charged at $8 per 1,000 gallons for each, meaning a person using 3,000 gallons of water would pay a bill of $88 dollars.

Under the new structure, the $16.75 paid each month for sewer debt would be figured into the sewer rate and not an additional charge.

The resolution also allows for an optional 3 percent annual increase. The increase can be waived or cut to a smaller percentage based on the current situation of the system.

Smith said that, as with so many aspects of finances, the commissioners are looking at ways to make the water and sewer system run more efficiently and cut costs whenever possible.

He also said that some of this has been done by the commissioners retaining the operation of the system instead of contracting with another agency or village to handle the day-to-day responsibilities, such as maintenance and billing.

In addition, the commissioners, staff in the Meigs County Auditor’s Office and the commissioners’ office clerk have taken on the additional responsibilities of the billing and customers service calls about the system. The system is also maintained by a small crew to keep from passing additional expenses on to customers.

The Meigs County Commissioners took over ownership and operating responsibilities of the Rutland water and sewer system on April 1, 2013, due to the increasing debt with of the village with regard to the system.

In early 2012, members of the Rutland Village Council approved the transfer of complete ownership and operation of the village’s water distribution and sewer collection and treatment systems to the Meigs County Commissioners.

It was also made clear, at the time, that it was been done for the benefit of the citizens of the area, according to the commissioners.

It was previously reported that the purchase of the water and sewer facilities allows for the restructuring of the loan currently in place between the village and the Ohio Water Development Association.

During a January 2012 public meeting, John Rauch of the Rural Community Assistance Program — who has been instrumental in trying to work out a solution for Rutland regarding its declining water and sewer systems, which have been running with negative fund balances for many years — spoke to the citizens about the problems and possible solutions.

Rauch had been working with the village for about two years at that time, and had told the village that a rate hike of around $30 (if not more) would be needed if Rutland continued to operate the water and sewer systems.

Rauch added that the sale option has the most potential to alleviate Rutland’s problems and that commissioners are only trying to help and have made the offer solely for Rutland’s benefit.

Action could be taken on the resolution as early as the April 17 regular meeting of the Meigs County Commissioners. Weekly meetings take place at 11 a.m. Thursday.

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