×

Newport Selectboard OKs 20% rise in water, sewer rates



Valley News Correspondent
Tuesday, June 18, 2019

NEWPORT — The Selectboard has approved a 20% increase in the town’s water and sewer rates, the second increase in as many years with the strong likelihood for additional increases over the next few years.

At a public hearing Monday before the board approved the increases, Finance Director Paul Brown explained, as he did last year, why both systems need an infusion of money for operating expenses, routine maintenance and capital projects.

Brown said the biggest factor is a sharp reduction in water use, which impacts both systems.

“We are at historic lows (for use),” Brown said, but did add there has been an “uptick” in use in the first billing this year, which covers four months and if that continues it would improve the revenue picture.

The sharp drop in water use by gun manufacturer Sturm, Ruger & Co., along with conservation, has resulted in water use decreasing from about 50 million gallons every four months in 2014 to around 30 million in the most recent billing period.

Less water use does not translate into lower operating costs for either system, Brown said, pointing out that the major projects are expected, including a federally mandated $9 million upgrade to the wastewater treatment plant, requiring a significant increase in working capital, Brown said.

One resident at the hearing suggested a lower increase for next year to make it easier on ratepayers. In response, board members said they did that last year and again this year, reducing the recommended increases in a rate study for this year from 43% for water and 40% for sewer.

“We try to temper the (increases in) rates, but we have costs coming,” board member Todd Fratzel said.

Last year, rates were increased 10% for water and 15% for sewer.

Monday’s approved increases will be reflected in the four-month bill that arrives in January after the November meter reading.

In a slide presentation to the board on Monday, Brown said the increases would raise the combined water and sewer bill for a family of four using a standard of 52,000 gallons a year from an average of $965 to $1,158 annually. A two-person household using 34,000 gallons a year would see an increase to $757 from $631.

The water rate per 1,000 gallons will increase from $7.84 to $9.41, and for sewer the per-1,000 gallon tally will rise from $10.71 to $12.85

Additional increases are projected to last till 2023, with 2% annual increases after that.

Before 2018, Newport last raised water and sewer rates in 2009, when they also were phased in.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.