KINGWOOD — Residents of Arthurdale and Reedsville will see an increase in sewer bills in the near future.
At a Thursday meeting, both Reedsville and Masontown agreed to accept a staff proposal regarding the rate hike. Masontown originally ask the Public Service Commission to allow them to increase Reedsville and Arthurdale customers bills by 221 percent. Reedsville, in turn, filed a discriminatory ordinance against Masontown because the rate hike did not affect their other customers.
At a Monday night meeting, Reedsville council members indicated they would have to increase sewer bills by a minimum of 45 percent. The current metered rate is $50.61. The new estimated metered rate would be $73.78. The unmetered rate for Arthurdale customers is currently $67.72, and the estimated unmetered rate would increase to $98.92.
The rate hike is due to a raise in inflow and infiltration (I&I). Inflow and Infiltration is storm or ground water that enters the sewer system through leaky or cracked pipes, manholes or down spouts, sump pumps or improperly connected storm drains. Reedsville doesn’t have a sewage treatment plant. It pays Masontown a bulk rate charge for sewage treatment.
Reedsville Mayor Jason Titus said he and the present council have “jumped into the frying pan” with the I&I issue.
“My biggest concern is the burden on Reedsville and Arthurdale residents. This will be a major impact on them,” he said. Titus said the town has procured a loan to fix a problem that occurred prior to both him and the current council members taking office.
“We’re trying to do what we can,” he said about the repairs the town is working on. “Reedsville is Masontown’s only bulk customer, and when our rates raise, it trickles down to our residents.”
“I think Reedsville has a lot to handle,” Masontown Mayor Roxie Turner said. “But for the past 15 years, we have paid for all of the I&I. We’ve used all the money we had. It come to a point we had to do something. The previous mayor didn’t notify us about Arthurdale being added on. I told him specifically to notify us if [Reedsville] hooked someone else up. He never told us about anything,” she said.
Turner said Masontown has paid to treat Reedsville’s I&I for 15 years and can not do it anymore. “We’re making a $39,000 a month loan payment,” she said about the new sewer system.
Arthurdale resident Ann Robb said when she first moved to Arthurdale, she was paying $8 a month for sewer service. She said the rate had steadily climbed over the years. Now she said, with this increase, she will be paying $129.
“We’re not charged by usage because we don’t have meters. It varies by the amount of flooding,” she said. “I believe Arthurdale is being penalized because we don’t have meters.”
Reedsville resident Gregg Burke said he understood both Reedsville’s and Masontown’s points of view. He said he is helping town employees look for problems. “We are working to fix the problems. When we are finished with Arthurdale, it will take the I&I down by 50 to 60 percent.”
He said with the increase, people will be paying $150 per month. “The cost will be astronomical. People are talking about selling before it goes through,” he said. He added that Reedsville was mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency to add Arthurdale to its sewer customers.
Reedsville Town Recorder Sandy Kisner said she believed the rate hike should be equal. “We’re not a young town. We don’t have young families. We have a lot of older people on fixed incomes who can’t afford this. We should work together. We’re looking at people wanting to move. No one wants to buy in [Reedsville and Arthurdale] because of utilities,” she said.
“When people have to choose between their medicine and their sewer bills, which will they choose? If they don’t pay the sewer bill, their water will be turned off. It’s not fair to put this burden on folks.”
Reedsville town attorney Mark Gaydos said if the town can show a significant decrease in I&I, it can petition to get the rate hike lowered.