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Altoona Water Authority proposes increase in rates

Average customer’s monthly bill could rise past $100 for first time

The Altoona Water Authority has proposed rate increases for next year that for the first time would force an average customer’s monthly bill to rise past $100.

The authority staff has recommended a 7 percent hike in water rates and a 6 percent hike in sewer rates — along with a capital-needs surcharge based on meter size that would total $8.71 a month for households.

The proposed increases would raise monthly costs for a minimum user of up to 1,668 gallons by $11.79 to $58.

They would raise monthly costs for an average user of 4,000 gallons by $17.85, to $107.69.

They would raise the monthly cost for a business that uses 2.2 million gallons — a “large user” — by $2,270 to $34,000, according a chart provided by

authority Billing Director Ron Becher.

If the authority approves the proposed increases next month as expected, it will have raised both water and sewer rates for the fourth consecutive year.

Last year at this time, the authority increased water rates by 3 percent and sewer rates by 8 percent for 2017.

The proposed increases will make up for a shortfall in revenues due to continual consumption decline due mostly to water-saving fixtures, to operational cost increases for contract-based wages and for employee health insurance, for increased debt-service costs, the additional cost of complying with tighter protective regulations and a slight increase in the authority’s annual payment to the city — now $4.1 million and now in the form of a rental payment, based on the city’s takeover of the water and sewer systems early this year, according to Controller Gina DeRubeis.

The capital surcharge — which authority staff suggested calling an “infrastructure renewal fee” — reflects concerns based on a report last month from consulting engineer Mark Glenn of Gwin Dobson & Foreman that the authority isn’t keeping up with needed renovations of its aging water and sewer pipes.

The proposed increases for 2018 do not reflect work that has been done in recent times to revise the authority’s rate structure — changes that will probably not be ready to integrate until 2019, DeRubeis indicated.

While the capital surcharge will be $8.71 for customers with 5/8-inch and 3/4-inch meters, it will be higher for bigger meters.

Customers with 1-inch meters will pay $15.95, for example.

Customers with 10-inch meters will pay $1,133.

Bigger meters mean bigger service lines and larger consumption, Becher said.

Basing the surcharge on meter size seemed the most equitable way, he said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

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