POINT PLEASANT — The proposed sewer rate increases in Point Pleasant passed the second of three required readings though not unanimously.
Voting for the second reading were Council Members Gary Cotton, Elaine Hunt, Robert Doeffinger, William Park and Linda Smith. Councilman Sam Juniper voted against the reading while Council Members Marshall Bonecutter, Leota Sang, James Bowles and Barbara Brown had excused absences from the meeting.
Juniper said he had a problem charging all customers a minimum charge when he said records reflect well over 1,000 sewer customers seldom use 3,000 gallons - the number of gallons on which the minimum charge is based. Juniper said he felt customers should be charged for what they use.
City Attorney RF Stein said he agreed with Juniper in theory and wished he could only be charged for the amount of homeowners and car insurance he actually used but in regards to financing a sewer system, he didn’t know how financially feasible this system would be, considering minimum charges allow city officials to calculate a budget for the sewer fund. Doeffinger agreed, saying it was his understanding minimum charges were in place in many municipalities to cover basic operating costs.
Juniper announced he planned to collect signatures from residents and file a petition with the Public Service Commission to fight the sewer rate increases. Juniper then handed Mayor Brian Billings his written resignation from the finance, sewer and water committees because he felt it was inappropriate to remain on them with his plans to fight the increases.
The ordinance has been debated for a few months in response to funding the North Point Pleasant Drainage Project (NPPDP). As previously reported, if the ordinances passes, the first phase of raises in sewer rates will go into effect 45 days after the third reading passes. The second phase of raises in sewer rates would only go into effect after the project has been substantially completed.
In regards to the first phase, residential customers currently pay $4.62 per 1,000 gallons used - that will go to $5.90 per 1,000 gallons used with each customer being charged for a minimum of 3,000 gallons each month. This means, customers who use 3,000 gallons or less are currently being charged a minimum bill of $13.86 - this will go to $17.70 per month for that 3,000 gallons, if the ordinance passes.
The raise in rates contained in phase two are as follows - customers will be charged $9 per 1,000 gallons of water with the customer continuing to be charged for a minimum of 3,000 gallons. This means customers who use 3,000 gallons or less of water will be charged a minimum of $27 per month. So to break it down, customers in Point Pleasant (who use 3,000 gallons or less of water each month) will go from paying $13.86 to $17.70 and finally $27 when the project is substantially completed.
At this week’s meeting, many council members reiterated no one wanted to raise rates but it seemed necessary to not only maintaining the sewer system but financing the NPPDP.