Buchtel, The Plains Getting Water Rate Increased

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Residents of Buchtel and The Plains will see their water bills go up next year, with residents of The Plains also getting a sewer bill increase.

The Athens County Commissioners on Thursday approved rate increases, which are effective in January.

The Plains water system buys its water from the city of Athens, and the commissioners are passing along a 5 percent rate increase the city enacted.

The $18.98 monthly price for the first 2,000 gallons a customer uses will increase to $19.93. The $8.51 price for each additional 1,000 gallons will increase to $8.94.

Commission President Lenny Eliason said sewer rates in The Plains are going up because of general cost increases the system faces, the cost of paying off debt incurred for an upgrade of the treatment plant and because of increased plant operating costs that are expected.

The upgrade, which is currently underway, will increase operating costs at the plant because of the increased level of treatment, Supt. Rich Kasler told the commissioners.

Kasler said $500,000 was borrowed for the plant upgrade, which will be paid off over 10 years. He estimated the annual payments at about $65,000.

Sewer bills are based on water usage. The $10.07 price for the first 2,000 gallons will increase to $12.07. The $4.20 price for each additional 1,000 gallons will increase to $5.20.

The combined water and sewer bill of $29.05 for the first 2,000 is increasing to $32, and the combined $12.71 price for each additional 1,000 gallons will go to $14.14.

In Buchtel, the $16.08 price for the first 2,000 gallons of water is increasing to $20.08, while the $9.02 price of each additional 1,000 gallons is increasing to $9.52. Sewer bills are not being increased.

The county, which took over maintenance of the Buchtel water distribution system in 1999, implemented water bill decreases in 2005, 2007 and 2009. According to Commissioner Lenny Eliason, that was possible because system improvements decreased water losses.

The county buys water from Nelsonville, and a few years ago the city installed a new master meter, causing daily water usage being billed to jump by an average of about 10,000 gallons. Because of the old meter, the county had been receiving water for which it was not paying, according to Eliason.

In 2013, the county increased the price Buchtel residents paid for each additional thousand gallons, but did not increase the minimum bill.

Revenue for 2015 was projected to be $98,000, which will jump by about $15,500 because of the rate increase. However, that will still leave the county short of the estimated $126,500 budget for 2015. Kasler said the county will strive to stay within the revenue generated.