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Stafford water, sewer rates rising

Bills for water and sewer use in Stafford County will be slightly higher starting next month, and will continue to increase slightly over the following two years.

The Board of Supervisors approved increases to county utility rates at its Tuesday meeting to accommodate costs for infrastructure and for deferred maintenance.

“Overall, we need more revenue to get to our aggregate need and it’s not just based on development,” Supervisor Ty Schieber said. “The list of projects included in the plan is reasonable. Doing nothing is not reasonable.”

The county hasn’t settled on exactly what the rate changes will be. But the average residential user who consumes 5,000 gallons of water per month—those bills are currently about $48.35—will see about an 8 percent increase on Oct. 1. That’s a little over $4 tacked onto those bills.

Another similar increase goes into effect on July 1, 2014, followed by a third in 2015. The overall effect is a 26.2 percent increase over the three-year period—or close to $13 a month extra for those average residential consumers.

The board and Utilities Department staff anticipate more increases the next two years, as well. Traditionally, the board approves one to three years’ worth of rate changes at a time, Utilities Director Harry Critzer said.

Those additional rates were discussed and included in presentations, but were not part of the change voted upon by the board.

Most average commercial users will also see increases over the next few years. But residential customers who use less than 5,000 gallons a month may actually see a drop in their bills.

The new rates, along with a $45 million bond issue and 10-year capital improvement program, passed 5–2, with Supervisors Paul Milde and Cord Sterling against.

The total bond amount will be issued over two or three years, Critzer said.

Forty-one projects are planned for the next 10 years, with 20 identified as critical. Wear and tear on pumps and pipes continues no matter the county’s financial state, staff noted. The economic downturn hindered regular work on the county’s water and sewer lines. If something fails, it’s much more expensive to repair on an emergency basis. The Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on the rate change in May, but the proposed three years’ worth of 9.5 percent increases failed in a tie vote.

ROADS TO CLOSE

A portion of Rocky Run Road will close as early as Dec. 1, when the new Rocky Pen Run Reservoir, dam and water treatment plant are ready to begin operating.

The 3.47-mile road currently connects Holly Corner and Greenbank roads, and is a popular cut-through to avoid U.S. 17. But the reservoir will flood a portion of the road, along with all of Brookview Lane and Berea Woods Drive. A public hearing was held Tuesday; no one spoke. The Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to abandon the roads, which the Virginia Department of Transportation has agreed to, as well. The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing soon on possible name changes for the western portion of Rocky Run Road.

Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975

kthisdell@freelancestar.com

 

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