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Published: Wednesday, 4/13/2011

Delta likely to double water rates next month

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

DELTA -- Delta's basic water charge is likely to more than double next month, and for some, swimming in the village pool also is about to get more expensive.

Village Council last week approved a second reading of a rate change that would hike the base water charge from $15.30 to $31 per month. Charges for actual water use would not change, so the percentage increase in customers' bills would be lower but still substantial: about 29 percent for village residents, and about 22 percent for customers outside Delta.

Village Administrator Derek Allen said the increase is expected to generate $250,000 in added revenue for the village water system, money it needs both to service debt from its $6.5 million water-treatment plant replacement and to replace filters at the plant that have worn out faster than expected.

"We've never caught up [with the debt payments], and it's time to replace the water filters," Mr. Allen said after council's meeting last week.

Village Council also is proceeding with a $1 hike, to $3, for the daily individual admission to the village pool.

Mr. Allen said the pool is a chronic money-loser and hiking the daily admission fee will reduce its red ink. Season pass prices, which range between $35 for an individual village resident to $85 for an out-of-town family of five or more, will not increase.

Both the water increase and the higher pool fee are scheduled for third readings by council Monday evening and, if they pass, will take effect May 18.

The village increased water rates three years ago by between 50 and 150 percent to cover much of the treatment-plant debt, but even that turned out not to be enough. Last year, council boosted the charge at Delta's metered bulk-water tap, used by pool-fill companies, farmers, and even Michigan residents with well problems, from $5 per 1,000 gallons to $7 per 1,000.

Village officials recommended raising the base charge, rather than usage-related rates, because changing the latter would reduce water consumption and thus compromise the hike's revenue value, Mr. Allen said.

The village already subsidizes the water plant by $300,000 annually from its income-tax fund -- about one third of that 1 1/2 percent tax's yield, the administrator said.

The $1.4 million in total revenue the water fund will receive after the base-charge increase "gets us right around the break-even point," he said. "These are tough economic times, and we're trying to keep the increase to the bare minimum it needs to be," Mr. Allen said, then adding that water rates have increased lately in many northwest Ohio communities because of mandated plant improvements and rising costs for water-treatment chemicals.

For an average residential water customer who consumes 1,037 cubic feet of water per month, the monthly bill will increase from $53.67 to $69.37 for customers in the village, and from $72.85 to $88.55 for those outside Delta, if the increase passes.

Mayor Dan Miller said he has gotten minimal complaints since the increase proposal's announcement.

"The community understands that we have to pay for the plant that's already built."

Previous rate increases encouraged conservation, and North Star BlueScope Steel, the village's largest water customer, cut its consumption by about 2 million gallons, the mayor added.

Before last week's village council meeting, Delta Recreation Council OK'd $19,000 for park improvements, including $10,000 to replace lights at the village ball fields, $3,000 for repairs to the Wildwood Shelter House at Happy Hearts Park, $3,000 for tennis-court engineering, and $3,000 for general upkeep.



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