Follansbee moving to increase its water, sewer bills, revenue

FOLLANSBEE — Citing a need to generate funds for repairs and upgrades and meet a state requirement, Follansbee Council approved increases to the city’s water and sewer rates on Monday.

Council approved the first reading of an ordinance raising sewer rates from $9.41 per 1,000 gallons to $11.27 per 1,000 gallons and water rates from $5.33 per 1,000 gallons to $6.84 per 1,000 gallons.

Rates for consumers using 3,000 gallons will be $20.52 for water and $33.81 for sewer. For those who use 5,000 gallons, the rates will be $34.20 for water and $56.35 for sewer.

City officials said the increases reflect surcharges of $2.09 per 1,000 gallons for water customers and $1.53 per 1,000 gallons for sewer customers for a future projects fund required by the state Public Service Commission.

City Manager John DeStefano said the city must collect up to 12.5 percent of its operating and maintenance budget for the fund.

He said the increases will support payment of a 20-year loan, at 3 percent interest, to finance improvements to the water and wastewater treatment systems.

DeStefano said an estimated $2 million in future projects for both systems are being prioritized. He said the replacement of two pump stations and three mixers at the sewer plant are among those to be considered first.

He said the city will have repaid about $475,000 in loans from the state Water Development Authority in the not distant future, and the money budgeted for those monthly payments may be used also for improvements.

The city is among many municipalities that have been ordered to separate their combined sewer and stormwater lines to prevent untreated sewage from being released into waterways during heavy rainfall.

In related business, council learned at least one of those lines may be addressed through funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

DeStefano said FEMA officials have advised $1 million may be available to install a larger stormwater line along Raymond Street to prevent future flooding as experienced from Allegheny Creek last summer.

The city manager said several homeowners are set to meet Wednesday with FEMA representatives and Barbara Zimnox of the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission to prepare their applications for assistance from the agency.

He said a handful of homeowners along Allegheny Creek are expected to participate in the buyout program while others on Virginia Avenue plan to apply for a new program funding flood mitigation efforts for eligible homeowners.

Through the buyout program, residents in flood-prone areas may accept from FEMA what’s considered the fair market value for their homes.The homes then are torn down and no permanent structures may be built on the property.

DeStefano noted the new program differs in that residents may apply for up to $175,000 to have their homes raised or demolished and replaced with homes without basements.

He said a number of residents whose homes took in water during the flood have approached him, but only those in the floodplain are eligible.

DeStefano said he’s awaiting an appraisal of the city’s fire station, which also may be eligible for FEMA funds.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)

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