Altoona Water Authority to raise sewer rates in 2016

In keeping with a repayment guarantee that’s required for a Pennvest loan for a new sewer line in Pleasant Valley, the Altoona Water Authority has raised sewer rates 4 percent.

The increase, however, won’t go into effect until the beginning of 2016 – and it’s possible that not all of it will be needed then, according to authority officials.

For a user of 4,000 gallons a month – about the authority average – the increase will add $1.38, bringing monthly bills to $35.67.

For a user of 7,724 gallons a month – the national average, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, as cited by the American Water Works Association – the increase will add $2.52, bringing monthly bills to $65.60. Pennvest is lending $6.1 million.

The authority has also received a $2 million PennWorks grant for the project, expected now to cost about $8.5 million, according to authority consulting engineer Mark Glenn of Gwin Dobson & Foreman.

Annual debt service of $339,000 on the loan will start coming due in the final quarter of 2015, according to the authority.

Authority staffers at first proposed a resolution promising to raise rates as necessary to meet the obligation, controller Gina DeRubeis said at a recent meeting.

But solicitor Alan Krier insisted on the specific increase, because that is what Pennvest now requires.

“Pennvest got burned on a couple cases,” Krier said. “Municipalities didn’t raise the rates and ended up in trouble.”

The authority’s minimum sewer bill is based on a water usage level determined by the size of the waterline.

For those whose water usage exceeds those levels, the sewer bill will include a fee for each additional gallon. The minimum monthly usage for household-size lines is 1,667 gallons – or 223 cubic feet – for a current minimum charge of $16.24.

The per-gallon rate for additional flow is 0.0579 cents per cubic foot.

The minimum charge after the increase will be $16.89, with a charge for additional water of about 0.06 cents per cubic foot.