Cathy Dyson writes about King George County. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
County water, sewer rates going up again
When Monique Winslow learned that the rates for King George County’s water and sewer were scheduled to go up again, the Dahlgren resident looked back at one of her first bills.
In 2004, the monthly average for her family of four was $32. It’s currently $85.
“The thought of the rates going up, again, made me choke,” she said. “My paycheck hasn’t gone up, I don’t think it’s fair that our water bill has to go up.”
Despite the case Winslow and three other King George residents made about unfair costs, the county’s Service Authority voted Tuesday to raise rates for the fourth year in a row. Starting in July, water rates and connection fees will go up 5 percent, and sewer rates will increase by 8 percent. Under that structure, Winslow’s new total will be $89.25 a month. Because the county bills every two months for service, her bi-monthly bill will be $178.50.
David Greenhalgh made what he called his “annual pilgrimage” to the public hearing. He was especially bothered by the debt fee, which is added to each water and sewer bill and is designed to help pay off the debt incurred by purchasing and upgrading systems.
Greenhalgh said the increases were causing people to hemorrhage money.
“There’s blood on the floor,” he said. “People are really seriously hurt by what water and sewer rates are.”
Bob Lowry asked the Service Authority board, made up of the Supervisors, to go back to its days of being fiscally conservative.
Resident Heath Taylor said the county water service had improved, and if the rates could be more affordable, that “would be a good thing.”
After their remarks, the board members gave their responses—and talked longer than the residents did. Board members Dale Sisson Jr. and Joe Grzeika reminded residents that the authority had to comply with state codes in terms of water quality and treatment.
“The standards change on us without our control,” Sisson said. “That’s where the bill comes from, making sure we have a quality product whose quality is defined at the state level.”
He said, “We’re not chroming the wheels on the Service Authority trucks.”
Ruby Brabo, the only board member whose home is on the county water and sewer system, said she understood the residents’ concerns, especially about the debt.
“The debt fees are the hardest for any of us to stomach,” she said.
Brabo added that the Service Authority’s 3,800 customers are “the only ones in the county saddled with the burden of the [Service Authority’s] $25 million debt.” But, she added, the county as a whole needs to provide the infrastructure for homes and commercial development. In the future, she’d like to talk with her colleagues about sharing the cost of that infrastructure.