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Water rates, fee focus in Mingo

March 14, 2012
Weirton Daily Times

MINGO JUNCTION - Village Council agreed Tuesday to bring in an ordinance to again increase water rates and implement a monthly water service fee.

Councilman Jack Brettell of council's water and sewer committee, said the water rates for village residents will increase from $6.31 per 1,000 gallons to $8.31 per 1,000 gallons. Customers outside the village are paying $6.97 per 1,000 gallons of water. The rate will increase to $8.97 per 1,000 gallons.

Also, the ordinance, which will be voted on at council's March 27 meeting, calls for a $2 a month surcharge for both water and sewer bills. That money will be placed into a capital improvement fund for water and sewer projects. The ordinance also will place a $51 per quarter service fee that Brettell said will be used for operations of the water plant.

Council in October voted to increase water rates from $4.38 to $6.31 per 1,000 gallons of water.

The village has seen a substantial decrease in water purchased by RG Steel and its predecessors. The plant was paying $2.4 million a year when it was in full operation but the amount has decreased to $360,000 a year. The plant has been completely idled since 2009.

Brettell said the village needs to make a $600,000 annual bond payment for the water treatment plant that began in 1996. The plant won't be paid off until 2021.

The water plant has an annual budget of $1.4 million. The amount of money collected from residents and businesses totaled about half of that amount prior to the increase in October.

The village had a water surplus of $1.9 million in 2008 but the amount decreased to $768,000 in 2010 because the village was using the surplus to make up the difference between what is being collected in water rates and the $1.4 million operating budget. The surplus now has been depleted.

Brettell said the $51 per quarter service charge on the water bills will generate about $529,000 a year.

Brettell said council needs to approve the ordinance at its March 27 meeting so the revenue can be incorporated into the village's 2012 budget, which also will be approved at that meeting.

Residents will be notified by mail of the increase and the reasons.

Councilman John Fabian said he normally would want a public meeting for residents to comment on the water rate increases but council is facing a budget deadline of April 1.

The new water rates will take effect on April 1.

The ordinance to increase water rates will include a clause that the rates will be reduced if the village is successful in selling water for gas drilling operations or if the steel mill resumes operations.

Mayor Ron DiCarlo said there are ongoing discussions with gas drilling companies to purchase water.

Brettell said residents also will be able to pay bills on a monthly basis. Meter readings will continue to be done on a quarterly basis. Residents will be required to pay the first month within 14 days of the billing, with the rest being paid all at once or on a monthly basis, he said.

Brettell also announced the village will notify the Jefferson County Water and Sewer District of an increase for treating sewage from the Georges Run area.

Council also heard a proposal from Charles Bowman of CDJ Consulting of Kent about preparing a local government organizational assessment that can be used to help village leaders in planning for the future.

Bowman said he would charge $18,000 a year and provide such work as grant writing services, analysis of workers' compensation rates, downtown revitalization strategies, improving the village's website for economic development and financial planning.

Bowman suggested a retreat for council and village administration to make specific plans for the future. He also said an assessment of residents on services provided and how to improve the community would be beneficial for planning purposes.

Councilman Mike Herrick said he wants to organize a group of village residents interested in helping the village grow.

"We work for the citizens," Herrick said, adding the community group would meet on a monthly basis offering input.

"We have to think outside the box we have been thinking for the past 40 years," DiCarlo said.

The mayor said he wants to use the resources of village residents to help improve the community.

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