In an effort to raise millions of dollars to help pay for aging water and sewer systems, Preston City leaders are proposing a minimum $20 a month increase in utility rates, per user ($10 for water, $10 for sewer).
In 18 months, that number could rise to $35 per month for both utilities and go even higher for heavy water users.
After weeks of discussion and public input from the community, the proposal was finalized during Monday night’s city council meeting.
The most urgent need, according to a recent infrastructure committee report, is replacement of the city’s sewer treatment plant. As it stands, the plant does not meet current Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regulations. The city has been given a deadline to come into compliance or face stiff fines.
City Councilman Brad Wall says there are few options.
“The sewer rate increase is one we have to implement in order to pay for a new sewer treatment plant,” he said.
The proposed rate increase for the sewer system includes an incremental increase of $10 per month now and an additional $20-$25 per month in 18 months.
“We know we are going to have a huge expense out there in four or five years and we have to start saving toward that right now,” said Wall.
“The sewer plant has to be built,” according to Preston City Mayor, Mark Beckstead.
After considering two different proposals to raise money to build a water treatment plant and develop a second source of culinary water, councilmembers came up with a compromise.
It includes dropping the base rate of 50,000 gallons of water per month to 35,000 for a $10 per month increase and overage charges on any water usage over 35,000 gallons.
“It’s not a perfect solution,” according to Wall, “but it is a compromise.”
Councilman Todd Thomas said the $10 per month water rate increase, “still puts us cheaper than a lot of neighboring communities.”
A public hearing will be scheduled before the council takes a final vote on the proposal.