Marble Hill utility rates to increase next month

Thursday, June 14, 2012

MARBLE HILL, Mo. -- Water, sewer and trash rates in Marble Hill will go up beginning July 1. Monday night the board of aldermen voted -- with Mayor Michael Sowers breaking a tie -- to raise the rates over the next three years until the city is in compliance with the rate it must charge in order to be considered for any kind of state or federal funding for water and sewer improvements.

The rates will go up gradually over three years so residents aren't hit with the entire rate increase all at once.

Beginning July 1 for water, a minimum will be $15 per month up to 1,000 gallons. A charge of 47 cents will be assessed for each 100 gallons over the minimum. For sewer, the minimum charge will be $16 a month, with 48 cents per 100 gallons over the minimum.

Trash collection rates will go up to $15 a month and are expected to remain at that rate for the next three years.

"At the end of 18 months, we will be able to get state and federal grants," city administrative assistant Tammy Whitney said. "If we don't do this, we will not get the $1.7 million [bond issue] and will never get anything again."

Alderwomen Deborah Acup and Beverly Johnson voted against raising the rates. Acup pointed out that Chaffee, Mo., is getting ready to build a $12 million water and sewer project and its rates are lower than Marble Hill's.

Sowers said Chaffee will go through the same process with its $12 million system that Marble Hill is going through with its $1.7 million system, which will eventually include raising its rates.

"The only reason we're doing this is because we cannot get funding," Sowers said. "Chaffee will run into the same thing we did."

Johnson's objection to the increase is that the rate structure will change to make the minimum use lower -- 1,000 gallons instead of 2,500 gallons. Sowers said the decision to lower the minimum use was made to ensure that people who use 1,000 gallons or less a month will pay for only what they use, and their monthly bills will reflect only a small increase for trash pickup.

According to Whitney, the city is split almost evenly between residents on a fixed income and those who aren't. The ones who will feel the increase the most will be the larger water users, those with larger families.

Sowers said the rate increase will affect his household because his is a family of four that uses a lot of water. Whitney said she has told her children that they will have a time limit on their showers to conserve water. Alderman Tim McCain said that even with the rate increase, the city is not going to be flush with money because of it.

"We're still going to be at the minimum of what we need to do what the DNR is telling us we have to do," McCain said. "We're still in the 'have to' category; we're not pumping up extra dollars to make anything on this. Everything we're doing here has to been researched and we're still at the bottom of being able to get this done."

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