July 17, 2008

Manassas Park Water, Sewer Rates to Rise

By Kipp Hanley, Manassas Journal Messenger, Va.

Jul. 17--The Manassas Park City Council passed a water rate increase on Tuesday, albeit grudgingly.

"We looked at all the options but there were no other viable solutions but to raise the rates," said Coun-cilman Bill Treuting.

The new rate, which will be on a sliding scale based on consumption, was necessary due to rising infrastructure costs as well as state and federal mandated upgrades.

Currently, the city charges residents a $35 base fee and a $4 consumption rate per 1,000 gallons used. The new rate eliminates the $35 fee but adds a $26 service charge from Upper Occoquan Sewage Authority and a price consump-tion charge on a sliding scale.

For example, those who use zero to 3,500 gallons will be charged $2.88 per 1,000 gallons of water and $5.12 per 1,000 gallons of sewage. The charges for water and sewer will go up incrementally as usage increases.

The city estimates that the average residential use of 5,600 gallons per month costs the residents $57.40 monthly. Under the new rates, that cost will go up to $71.33 a month, a 24 percent increase.

The new average monthly commercial bill will be $194.11--which is based on 17,900 gallons.

Several factors, including aging infrastructure, especially on the west side where the well-based system is starting to break down, necessitated the increase. It is likely that the wells will eventually need to be replaced, creating the need for more capacity to service any potential commercial growth.

Upgrades to the water system that are necessary to meet tougher state and Environmental Protection Agency stan-dards will cost the city nearly $28 million in the next 10 years. At the same time, upgrades to the sewer system will cost another $3.6 million.

An estimated 52 percent of the city's water and sewer expenditures are a fixed cost

associated with being a member of UOSA, where the city owns 5.4 percent capacity. That means no matter how much city residents use water, the cost of participating with UOSA--an organization that Prince William County, Fairfax County and Manassas are also members of--stays the same.

Vice Mayor Bryan Polk compared the scenario to buying a car but not driving it. Polk said you can avoid fuel costs by not driving your car, but you still have to make car payments.

Rates in Manassas will also be increasing due to mandated improvements to the dam at Lake Manassas and neces-sary upgrades to their water treatment facility. According to Manassas Assistant Director of Water & Sewer Domi-nic Brancaccio, the average monthly bill for residents using 5,000 gallons--an industry standard--will be approxi-mately $59.

Staff writer Kipp Hanley can be reached at 703-369-5738.


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