Bath council approves 20% water rate increase

by Trish Rudder

With very little pushback from the audience at the Bath Town Council meeting that began with the public hearing on the 20% water rate increase, the council unanimously passed the second reading on the water tariff proposal.

The new tariff will increase the minimum monthly bill for residential customers from $32.28 to $38.72, with similar rate hikes for commercial customers.

The ordinance also imposes a larger tap fee for customers joining the public water system for the first time.

Berkeley Springs Waterworks

The rate increase will need the approval of the state Public Service Commission (PSC) and if approved, it will likely go into effect within 45 days.

Both Councilman Greg Schene, who chairs the Ordinance committee, and Berkeley Springs Water Works committee chair, Councilman Dave O’Connell, gave reasons for the rate increase.

“We must have an uninterrupted water service. Our economy is tied to our water,” Schene said.

The U.S. 522 bypass and the water extension lines down 522 will increase the need for more water.

“Development is the unknown factor,” he said.

O’Connell said it bothers him that “we waited until ‘crisis management’ that caused overruns” at the water plant, and bringing a 15% increase in operations costs.

“This is why we are in this place,” he said.

“We are $65,000 over budget this year,” O’Connell said.

He said the plant needs to be a 24-hour operation.

“Long deferred maintenance along with employee turnover has made managing the expense side of things challenging over the past year. Of course, the second water source and 24-hour operations are upcoming PSC requirements,” the councilman said.

Schene said most municipalities increase the water rates about every five years, and it has been 14 years since the last increase here.