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Morgantown Utility Board approves rate increases due to inflation, Viatris closure

MORGANTOWN — The impacts of inflation and the looming July 31 closure of the Viatris (Mylan) facility factored into rate increases approved Tuesday as part of the Morgantown Utility Board’s  2022 budget.

Those increases — 13% for water  customers, 12% for sewer customers and 18% for stormwater utility customers — represent a total increase of $13.13 for the average bi-monthly customer based on 6,400 gallons of consumption.

Based on those numbers, that’s a $4.29 bump for water, $6.72 for sewer and $2.12 for stormwater. Those numbers are halved for the average monthly bill.

While the entire stormwater increase is based solely on inflation, MUB General Manager Mike McNulty said the former Mylan facility was MUB’s fourth largest water customer and second largest sewer customer in the 2020 fiscal year.

McNulty said about 4% of the 13% water rate increase is due to the loss of consumption due to the Mylan closure. That, he said, is expected to cut about $441,000 in revenue from the utility.

The number jumps for sewer rates, with 11% of the 12% percent increase coming due to Mylan’s closure, representing an estimated hit north of $936,000 to the utility’s bottom line.

McNulty and members of the board noted that even with the increases, MUB customers will be paying a fraction of those in the state’s other large cities.

For example, water customers in Charleston, Bluefield, Weston, Princeton and Huntington — all of whom are served by West Virginia American Water — pay $66.30 for 4,000 gallons. Morgantown customers currently pay $20.60, which would bump to $23.28 pending the increase.

Water and sewer combined, Morgantown would jump from 26th lowest combined rate to 20th lowest of the state’s largest municipal areas.

McNulty said customers can look at the West Virginia Public Service Commission website to see where MUB ranks overall.

“We’re still going to be way down the list, but I would say that I always think some of that is a bit misleading because you have no idea what some of these systems are like. What are you getting for your dollar — good equipment, good service? Do these systems need millions in upgrades,” he asked.
“I can’t speak for any other utility except Putnam Service District, where I just came from, but I can tell you this, you get your bang for your buck here in Morgantown.”

But these rates will only be in effect for just under two years as the board also preemptively approved inflationary 3% increases for the 2024, 2025 and 2026 fiscal years, though those numbers will be revisited as those future spending plans are finalized.

McNulty said this is an effort to avoid the sticker shock that comes when rates aren’t kept in line with costs and inflation.

MUB last increased water and sewer rates in 2016 in order to finance the ongoing Star City watstewater plant and Cobun Creek Reservoir projects. Stormwater rates were last increased in 2012.

The  sewer increases will not impact areas served by the Cheat Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant — the only area with projected customer growth. The increases will also skip water customers of the former River Road PSD, as  well as sewer customers previously served by the Canyon and Scotts Run PSDs, all of whom already pay higher rates than the rest of the MUB system due to various surcharges.

The increased rates could go into effect as early as Aug. 17, pending the approval of Morgantown City Council.

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