by Terry Rogers
On Monday, February 10, Milford City Council voted unanimously to raise rates for water, wastewater and trash services. The rate increase was based on a utility rate survey presented to Council in December 2019 by Dawn Lund, Vice-President of Utility & Financial Solutions (UFS).
“We discussed this at our January meeting and Council felt it might be good to have a workshop before we voted to raise the rates,” Mark Whitfield, Acting City Manager, said. “Because we delayed it a month, we are now requesting that the rate changes take effect June 1 rather than March 1 so that we can notify residents of the increase.”
According to Whitfield, UFS reviewed several factors in determining the need for a rate increase. They reviewed how much the City had in reserves, the money needed to operate utilities and the future projects planned. A number of future projects are listed in the City’s capital improvement plan, especially with water and sewer. Whitfield also explained that the sewer department had been running on a deficit for some time.
“On the trash side, it is pretty self-explanatory,” Whifield said. “We have been covering our operating costs but not the cost of our replacement vehicles. That is your second biggest cost, refuse vehicles. Again, water and sewer has several projects planned that are going to be pretty expensive. We are looking at a new water tank at $5 million and we have two wells in the Southeast part of town that are under-producing. To replace those wells, we are looking at another $2 to $3 million. The recommendation from USF is to raise rates across the board by 4 percent over the next five years. With all three increases, the total the average customer’s bill would go up is $3.01 per month.”
Councilman Jason James asked Whitfield what would happen if Council did nothing about the rates and Whitfield responded that it would basically be “kicking the can down the road.” Whitfield stated that as the City continues to grow, the demand and needs will be there, and that the City cannot deny the need for an increase forever. Councilman Don Marabello reminded Council that lowered reserves could result in a lower bond rating and higher interest rates should the City need to borrow in the future.
Councilman Doug Morrow asked if the rate increase could be effective July 1 instead of June 1 since the fiscal year started then. Whitfield stated that there would be no negative result in waiting until July 1 for the increase.
Council voted unanimously to raise solid waste rates by 4 percent, wastewater rates by 4.9 percent and water rates by 3.9 percent. During the public comment portion of the discussion, Nina Pletcher asked if the City could let residents know how much their bills would rise and not just send a percentage. She also felt it would be beneficial for people to know why the rates were rising. Whitfield said that he would include more details on exactly how much rates would go up and the reason for the rate increase.
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