Lubeck Public Service District seeks sewer rate increase

WASHINGTON, W.Va. — An increase in sewer service rates by the Lubeck Public Service District passed a first reading by the board on Thursday.

Zack Dobbins, accountant for the Lubeck Public Service District, said sewer service bills would increase by 14.8 percent, or $1.66 per month.

Dobbins said the increase would affect all sewer service customers in the Lubeck PSD; it would not affect those who receive water service from the district.

Under the increase the charge would be $13.21 per 1,000 gallons with a $12.86 per month customer charge and the minimum bill would be $12.86 per month.

Dobbins said a surcharge of $2 per month would remain on bills in the Lake Washington Sewer Extension area until the loan of $716,272 from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Clean Water revolving fund is paid.

Dobbins said all other charges but one will not be changed.

“The leak adjustment will be $1.88 per 1,000 gallons when the bill reflects unusual consumption attributed to eligible leakage on the customer’s side of the meter,” he said. “This will be applied to all consumption based on the customer’s historical average use.”

There will be a second reading on the rate increase at 1 p.m. Nov. 30 and then it will go to the Wood County Commission for approval.

Many speakers said they objected to the increase, stating they were retirees and are on fixed incomes and the increase per month was too much.

Dave Wills asked how much of the increase was to be applied to the state mandate for the PSD to keep a fund for emergency repairs or equipment replacement.

Dobbins said they are required to put one-eighth of operating expenses away to cover expenses. He added they are also required to put aside 2 1/2 percent of their gross revenue for bond coverage and also for expensive equipment.

“There are approximately $146,683 of capital improvements,” he said. “There is a 1996 truck they have worn out for use on the sewer side and there are two lift stations which need generators installed and they also have $14,000 built in here for GPS equipment.”

Dobbins said the Belleville project has nothing to do with the sewer service since it is a water project and the sewer and water parts of the PSD operate as separate entities. He said they go out on the same bill as a convenience and cost savings to the customers.

Lubeck has 4,718 water customers and 2,351 sewer customers.

Dobbins said the mandate to set aside funds was part of Senate Bill 234 passed last year changing the way PSDs may handle their finances.

Before the law change a PSD operated on a break-even policy.

Commissioner Jerry Martin said that is how the PSD operated for many years.

“We had to run this district for the past 50 years like a candy store,” he said. “You were not allowed to have any reserves.”

Martin said emergencies had to be handled by borrowing and taking on debt.

“We are trying to build up a contingency fund where we can handle emergencies,” he said. “We never had that capability until Senate Bill 234 came along.”

Martin said an earlier water rate increase was also done to allow them to meet the mandate from Senate Bill 234. He said the state public service commission does not allow a PSD to co-mingle funds for water and sewer services.

Dobbins said the rate increase would generate $214,000 for the district.