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Lisbon water rate hike plans on hold

LISBON — The village Board of Public Affairs temporarily backed off on plans to raise water rates until they get a clearer understanding of what is being proposed.

After voting at its Sept. 22 to begin the process of raising rates, the BPA tabled the issue at this week’s meeting until they can meet with the official from the Rural Community Assistance Partnership who is recommending the increase.

Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP), a non-profit agency that helps local governments assess its water system needs, determined Lisbon’s rates need to get to 1.7 percent of the village’s median household income to qualify for state grants and other financial assistance to pay for water system improvements.

Water rates have already been increased twice this year – an automatic 3 percent increase that took affect Jan. 1 and a second increase enacted by the BPA in February that took affect in May. Even with these increases, the village rate is only at 1.2 percent of the median household income, and the BPA’s goal is to for the next increase to get them to 1.7 percent.

Utilities Director Chris Peterson said the RCAP official he has been working with has recommended scrapping the two-tier pricing system, where the village charges a higher rate for the first 200 cubic feet used and a lower rate for every 100 cubic feet used after that.

Under the increase enacted in February, the rate went from $5.69 per cubic feet to $9.87 for the first 200 cubic feet, and then returning to $5.69 for every 100 cubic feet after that.

RCAP is proposing a flat $7 per 100 cubic feet, which Peterson said would result in a $5.74 savings for those only using the minimum 200 cubic feet per two-month month billing cycle.

“This will get you where you need to go” in terms of reaching the 1.7 percent median household income threshold, Peterson said. “It’s a very bitter pill to swallow.”

The BPA deferred taking action until its next meeting in October in part because the RCAP report went back and forth between cubic feet and gallons per month, which is how most communities bill for water. Board member Vito DiIullo said he wants to completely understand what is being proposed before he votes.

“We’re putting our customers through a lot this year” and they owe it to them to get it right, DiIullo said.

The automatic 3 percent hike that took affect Jan. 1 was supposed to generate enough money to keep pace with increased operating costs but that did not occur, which was one of the reasons the BPA increased rates again in February.

RCAP is recommending the BPA continue with the automatic 3 percent annual increases. “I have no intention of changing that,” said BPA Chairman Bill Hoover.

RCAP is also recommending village sewer rated be increased from $7.09 per 100 cubic fee to $8.09. Village council sets sewer rates, and legislation raising sewer rates is expected to be ready for council to consider at its next meeting.

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