Steubenville City Manager Tim Boland's second day on the job earlier this month included a two-hour town hall meeting to discuss a proposed water rate increase designed to establish a water infrastructure fund and to help heal a city water fund facing a growing deficit.
That rate hike was approved by a five-to-two margin at the council meeting following the town hall meeting and will now go into effect Feb. 7.
"It is very important for our water customers to be fully aware of the changes they will see on their water bills in the coming weeks," Boland said. "The $6.50 increase will go into effect for all customers, but the customers may see the increases at different times in February and March on a pro-rated basis."
Boland said the $3.90 increase will go into effect immediately for all customers and that money will go directly to the water infrastructure fund that was established by the city council for pipe repair and replacement projects.
"The $1.30 for every 1,000 gallons of water will go into the water fund to help eliminate the anticipated deficit this year and going forward," Boland said.
"Most customers will see a partial increase in their February bill and the full increase in March because of our five billing cycles," said Finance Director Alyssa Kerker.
Every city water customer is charged for a minimum 2,000 gallons of water every month.
"We believe the average water customer in Steubenville uses about 4,000 gallons a month, so it is fairly easy to calculate what the increase will be for their household," Kerker said. "We are anticipating seeing approximately $330,000 each year be going into our capital infrastructure improvement fund."
Boland said he and city council will identify areas of the city that have a "chronic history" of line problems and make them a priority.
A tentative plan of action is expected to be presented to the utility committee in February, followed by a concrete plan in March.
Since the city council approved the water rate increase there has been a constant demand to resolve delinquent water accounts.
Boland said he has asked the finance department to outline the collection process in an effort to find a way to expedite and streamline the collection of delinquent accounts.
Other issues facing the water department are the unseen water leaks and the replacement of commercial water meters and then residential water meters. Boland has organized a grant committee that will pursue funding to address these issues.
"We want to be as effective as we can and seek grants that give us the best opportunity to obtain the money and to get projects done," Boland said.