St. Clairsville’s Biggest Water Users to See Major Rate Increase

The city is increasing the water rates for the top water users, who have apparently been benefiting from erroneous meter reading information since 2015. Meanwhile, residential users will see a break this year.

“We found out the information that was inaccurate was in the top two tiers,” Service and Safety Director James Zucal said. “We had to change those top two tiers, and really bring them to a rate where they should be, and in consistency with other peer communities and water users.”

Zucal said there are five tiers of water users in the city.

“The low tiers, one two and three, are typically your residential customers. The two tiers that are going to see the increase are tiers four and five, the 7,000 to 10,000 gallons per month and the 10,000 gallon plus. Those are your commercial accounts,” he said. “There’s about 25 accounts in those top two tiers.

“There’ll be a significant increase this year, and all the increases will be per-year, based upon the ordinance,” Zucal said. “After that, it should typically be $1 per thousand (gallons).”

Meanwhile, the first through third tiers will not see an added $1 per 1,000 gallons enacted this year.

“This year, they will get a break,” he said. “Next year it’ll follow the code that’s in place. Again, next year the dollar will continue per 1,000.”

“I want to stress that in 2015, when the new automated meter reading system went into place, those folks saw a reduced amount because of the decimal displacement, but the city was never contacted,” Zucal said. “They’ve been getting a break since 2015 — the commercial users. But we’re making it right.”

Council held the first reading of the measure. A second reading will be held during the Feb. 20 council meeting. A special meeting may be scheduled for a third reading, so the city could put the legislation in effect by March.

In addition, Mayor Terry Pugh said the Ohio Auditor of State has been invited to look closely at the matter.

Pugh said the problem could have began when the new automated meter reading system went online in 2015. He added that he does not yet know when the audit will start.

Pugh said at this point, there does not seem to be a problem beyond non-compatible software.

Notices of the rate change will be posted at various locations throughout the city.

The next council meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 20 at the the Municipal Building, 100 N. Market St.