Rate Hikes on the Horizon for Rockville Water Customers
The proposed rate increases would be used to maintain and upgrade the aging system.
The era of cheap water is over.
At least, this is what Rockville Director of Public Works Craig Simoneau told city councilmembers at the council's regular meeting on Monday.
The city is considering raising water and sewer rates as part of the proposed fiscal year 2013 budget. If approved, water customers could see their bills increase by almost 9 percent every year for the next six years.
In dollars and cents, a household that pays an average water and sewer bill of $155.70 per quarter this year could see that bill increase to $169.49 next year.
Simoneau said the rate hikes are necessary in order to maintain and upgrade the system. The infrastructure is aging and water quality needs improvement. The rate increases would also help replenish the water department's cash reserves, which are currently non-existent. But these aren't problems unique to Rockville.
"The problem nationwide is tremendous...It’s not just us. There are probably communities that are worse off than us," Simoneau said. "There are others with an even larger challenge ahead of them."
Councilwoman Bridget Donnell Newton expressed her concern that the fees are becoming "out of sight."
"I’m very concerned that we’re hitting a point where it’s not sustainable in Rockville to pay all the fees," Donnell Newton said.
Councilman Mark Pierzchala praised the public works director for taking a proactive approach to address the system's weaknesses.
"Good water isn’t cheap. It’s a preicios resource across the world. Wars are fought over water and in my opnion, users pay," Pierzchala said. "People have a choice. When they take a shower, when they water the garden, whatever they do, they don’t need to use as much water as they often use. So if water bills are a problem, cutting consumption is a solution for most people... It is just not cheap to provide water."
The council is scheduled to vote on the fiscal year 2013 budget in May.