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Moundsville Moves Forward with Sanitation Rate Increase

MOUNDSVILLE – City leaders unanimously voted to proceed with the approval of a 35.4-percent rate increase for the city’s sanitary board, with some Moundsville council members framing the rate hike as a necessary evil.

The increase would net the city an additional $274,000, and contribute to several vital additions, including a state-mandated capital reserve, a manhole replacement invoice, and rising costs of operation and maintenance. A small portion of the increase — 0.8 percent, representing $40,000 — would go toward replacing a 22-year-old pickup truck.

Council members voted 7-0 in favor of approving both the ordinance amending the rate schedule for the sanitary board, as well as the conjoining ordinance authorizing the improvements.

Council member Ginger DeWitt commented that she was ardently against the rate increase on principle, but the city had little choice in the matter, as the expenses the revenue would cover were unavoidable, and that delaying action would invite further problems for the city.

At a previous meeting, council was informed by council member Judy Hunt that failure to provide the rate increase could see external governmental agencies, such as the public service commission, set much higher rates without their approval.

“I’ve been dead-set against this, and I’ve not hidden that,” DeWitt said. “I also know that if we wait for the public service commission to come in, if we don’t do something, as Judy said, they could set the rates higher.”

“I am so ever against ever raising any utility,” she added, “but I feel like we don’t have a choice here, and the truck is such a minimal (part of the) fee. They’ll be using it daily. They can’t just go and borrow another department’s vehicle, so I feel like they need that truck, as well as everything else.”

Council members, including Phil Remke at Tuesday’s meeting, questioned whether the purchase of the truck through the rate increase could be delayed until a future time, or separated from the rate increase. The low percentage of the total cost was used to point out that doing so would be largely futile in reducing the total amount.

City Manager Rick Healy previously pointed out that the rate hike would see the average, 4,000-gallon residence rate increase from $19.06 to $25.35.

Sanitary Superintendent Larry Bonar spoke briefly, saying that the operation and maintenance increase was highly necessary, due to the rising cost of utilities in the last decade.

“We do need that O&M increase, just because the price of material, price of electric, price of everything we use down here went up in the last 10 years,” Bonar said. “I know it’s a big increase, but I think we need just about everything that’s on it.”

Brianna Hickman described the increase as “a necessary evil,” adding that the city did not have much wiggle room in the matter. However, she asked if rates could be addressed more gradually in years to come.

“We don’t have a lot of leeway here, but if it’s possible, in the future, I would really encourage us and the appropriate boards to look into increasing at an appropriate time frame, so this doesn’t happen every 10 years. We’ve heard, ‘We haven’t had a rate increase in a decade,’ which is great, but also not so great, because now we’re faced with this incredible hike, and no one’s going to be happy about that.

“If we could just look at keeping an eye on that, this might not happen in another decade, because (increases) are always going to happen.”

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