Lubeck Public Service District approves 14.8 percent sewer rate increase

Photo by Jeffrey Saulton Lubeck Public Service District Chairman Jerry Martin and Lubeck PSD Manager Rocky McConnell listen during a public hearing Thursday concerning a rate increase for sewer service.

WASHINGTON, W.Va. — Despite protests from customers, the Lubeck Public Service District approved a 14.8 percent sewer rate increase on Thursday.

During a public hearing Thursday, the district board heard comments on the increase. All of the comments were against the increase. Most stated concerns about what they called excessive spending on equipment purchases and salaries for district employees.

Others said this would be the third increase in the last three years, two for sewer service and one for water service.

After the hearing, the board vote 3 to 0 to approve the rate increase.

Lubeck PSD Chairman Jerry Martin said the increase needs approval from the Wood County Commission and the PSD wants to get that on the commission’s agenda soon.

If the county commission approves the increase, Martin said, it will go into effect in 45 days.

In past meetings Martin said the Lubeck PSD needed a rate increase to cover increasing costs to operate the system and to meet the mandate under Senate Bill 234, requiring the district to maintain a reserve of 12.5 percent of its budget to cover emergency repairs or equipment replacements.

Lee Sylvester, a PSD customer, had concerns about what he said was a lack of looking for ways to cut costs before increasing rates.

“My view is you did not consult with any of the general population prior to deciding on this,” he said. “It is further my view that you all did nothing to try to reduce your budget prior to this and I don’t see or haven’t heard or read anything on your website of any cost saving methods or ideas you all undertook before deciding on this rate hike.

“And, I don’t feel you are representing the district very well,” Sylvester said.

Ted Stuart, also a Lubeck PSD customer, said he agreed with Sylvester’s view on how the district has handled the rate increase.

“We’ve not seen anything publicly where you tried to reduce the amount of costs before an increase,” he said. “It seems to me the easiest answer this district has is to just make an increase.”

Stuart said the sewer rates were increased two years ago.

Customer Robin Nichols said she was not only concerned about the increase but also about what she called the lack of knowledge the district office personnel have on the rates they charge.

“If you raise your rates all of your employees need to be taken to school,” she said. “When I come to pay my water bill and question them about how your water rates compare around here, they like to argue with you out front.”

Nichols said she was told the rates are about the same as Vienna or Parkersburg. She said the state Public Service Commission website shows for 4,000 gallons used Lubeck charges $37.44, compared to Vienna at $12.41, Ravenswood at $14.76, Williamstown at $23.36, Central Boaz at $25.87, Harrisville at $31.10 and PUB (Parkersburg Utility Board) at $32.26.

“When I come to pay my bill I don’t need them to tell me I’m paying the same as Vienna or Parkersburg,” she said.

PSD officials have said this is an increase of $1.66 per month for sewer service customers.

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.

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