A plan to raise monthly rates for Greencastle sewer and water customers for the first time since 1998 took another step forward Wednesday night.
Mayor Nancy Michael presented fellow Board of Works members Sue Murray and Thom Morris with a detailed proposal which they approved unanimously. The ordinance now moves on to the City Council for first reading Aug. 8.
If the Council approves the Mayor's proposed ordinance in August, they would hold a public hearing at their September meeting before voting one final time. If approved, the new rates would take effect in October.
According to the proposal that was presented to the Board of Works on Wednesday, the average customer -- those who use 700 cubic feet or 5,236 gallons of water per month -- would see their monthly water rate rise from $14.49 to $21.28.
The same customers would see their monthly sewage rate increase from $31.50 to $36.26, for a combined monthly increase of $11.55.
Customers who use a minimum amount of water every month -- 100 cubic feet or 748 gallons -- would see a total increase of just $4.41.
Looking at the increases based on shear percentages, monthly water rates would go up by 47 percent and sewage would increase by 15 percent.
However, Michael said she wants to make sure the public understands that the 47-percent increase is applied only to the actual water rate and not to the overall bill. Customers wanting to figure out what their increase would be need to look at the part of their bill that shows what they are being charged per cubic feet of usage.
Officials agreed Wednesday that it has been a long time since the city has raised rates and that it is necessary to make the change now.
"We have a very old system that we need to protect," Sue Murray said. "Nobody wants to raise rates without the need to do that. I think it's become very clear that Terry (water superintendent) can't pay his bills."
Thom Morris added, "I would hope the council sees what amount of work went into this and the need for (the increase)."
The water department has a projected deficit, over the next seven years, of more than $531,000, according to statistics supplied by the Mayor Wednesday. The sewer department's deficit is expected to exceed $312,000 in the same period.
Michael urged that the city may have to consider an additional rate increase in the not -so-distant future.
She said the rate increase that is being proposed right now is doing two things -- helping pay for capital improvement projects on the utility department's seven-year plan and covering anticipated operation and maintenance costs at both plants for the 2006-07 year only.
"It will have to be looked at every year unquestionably," Michael said. "It is conceivable that there will have to be another increase just to meet O and M (operation and maintenance) costs."
The Board of Works meets at 4 p.m. on the third Wednesday of every month at city hall.