By Jordan Cohen
The Mahoning Valley Sanitary District is seeking water-rate increases in the second and third years of a three-year plan.
The district supplies water to Youngstown, Niles and McDonald and sells under the name Meander Water.
The board of MVSD will ask the Mahoning and Trumbull County Court of Jurisdiction to adopt the plan it approved Tuesday.
The plan would freeze the current rate from last July until June 30, 2011. The cost to consumers would be increased by 9.9 percent on July 1, 2011, and again by 11.8 percent in July 2012, said Thomas Holloway, chief engineer.
“We’re raising this [rate] by 15 cents per 1,000 gallons in the second year and 20 cents [per 1,000 gallons] in the third,” Holloway said. “That means it’s only a 75-cents monthly increase for the average family of four that uses around 5,000 gallons a month.”
Using those figures, the residential cost for the same average usage would increase by $1 per month in the third year.
MVSD charges only the municipalities, which then bill residential and commercial customers.
Holloway said maintaining the current rate will generate $10.4 million in revenue in the first year. In the second year, revenue will climb to $12.4 million and to $14 million in the third.
“We need this increase to cover increasing bills such as electricity and gasoline,” said Mark Memmer, board president. Holloway said the district’s electric bill averages $1 million each year.
“In addition, we have a number of capital improvements that are necessary to improve our facilities,” Holloway said, noting that the board is spending $330,000 for sludge removal. The chief engineer also pointed to rusted pieces of metal on a table in front of the board.
“These are from a seal-and-receiver gate in the reservoir, and they’re 80 years old,” Holloway said. “That’s why we need these improvements.”
Holloway and several MVSD board members had separate meetings with each municipality before announcing the rate request. “We didn’t hear any objections from any of them,” the chief engineer said.
A court of jurisdiction, composed of common pleas Judges Peter Kontos in Trumbull County and James Evans in Mahoning County, has to approve the rate increase. Holloway anticipated the petition will be brought before the court within 30 days.
The MVSD has traditionally acted on rates every three years. Holloway said the last rate increases enacted in 2007 were slightly higher than those approved by the board.
In one other item, Holloway reported the heavy snow and the rain that preceded it increased the Meander Reservoir level by 2 billion gallons in slightly more than three weeks. He called it unusual but said it places the MVSD “in a good position” for next spring and summer.