City of Bethel may raise water and sewer rates to break even

by Mark Arehart on April 25, 2013

The City of Bethel has hired an engineering and consulting firm to do a cost analysis study of the city’s water and sewer utilities. The firm’s suggestion: generate more revenue.

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The City of Bethel has been losing money on its water and sewer services for years. In fact officials say water and sewer are the biggest money losers for the city.

More lift stations were built to allow water trucks to travel shorter distances, saving money on gas.

City Subdivision was piped, too, to try and save some cash. However, the city is still losing money.

“We have to make up a shortfall every single year. That is because the rates are not equal to even making us break even,” City Manager Lee Foley said. “For many years the city has had to subsidize the water and sewer by either taking money from the general fund or moving it from other departments that made a profit.”

The city contracted global engineering firm CH2HM Hill to study the services and devise ways to cover that gap.

The study says Bethel’s water utility lost around $500,000 last year and the sewer utility lost about $200,000.

The study says there are a few ways to cover the costs.

One way would be for the city to keep pulling money from the general fund to subsidize the services.

Another option would be to increase rates by about 12% or so the first year. Subsequent rate increases would then go down yearly, for example to 8% the next year and so on.

A third option hinges on if the institutional corridor, a proposed water/sewer line to several businesses in the city, is ever built.

The city last raised water and sewer rates in 2009 by 6%. That was not reflected on people’s bills as the council chose to exempt sales tax on water and sewer.

Before that, rates were increased in 2007.

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