Elkins Water Board recommends 35% emergency water rate increase

Published: Aug. 15, 2022 at 12:38 PM EDT
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ELKINS, W.Va (WDTV) - The Elkins Water Board has recommended an emergency rate increase of 32 percent for city water customers that could go into effect as soon as next month.

The Elkins council could approve the increase as soon as Sept. 15.

Officials said the increase would become effective immediately upon passage. An additional 3 percent increase would become effective in summer of 2023.

Elkins water rates were last raised in 2017 and officials said they are no longer sufficient to support operation and maintenance of the city’s water system.

For the fiscal year that ended June 30, costs exceeded revenues, and it has been months since the system could afford to make state-required deposits into accounts intended to pay for future expenses.

The city’s water rates are based upon the actual cost of providing the service, and officials said the city is legally prohibited from transferring money from other city funds to cover those costs.

This means that increases in costs for the water system must be met by increased rates and time is of the essence, according to Wes Lambert, chief operator of the Elkins water system.

“We’re following an emergency process to set this new rate, because the Water Board recognizes that there could be severe consequences otherwise,” says Lambert. “Without this rate increase, we would soon be getting to the point of not being able to make bond payments, pay vendors, or make payroll.”

The new rate was determined by inflation and supply chain issues, bond and statutory obligations and how long the current rate has been in effect.

Officials also said the EWB is making plans to avoid future large increases, including a policy of reviewing rates every two years and recommending smaller increases on a more frequent basis as needed.

The next step in the recommendation is consideration by city council. The first of two readings of a rate ordinance will be on Sept. 1. The second reading is scheduled for Sept. 15.

The new rate would go into effect immediately since it is an emergency rate increase.

The proposed increase does not include funds for the systematic replacement of aging water lines citywide, work for which engineers retained by the city have estimated a bottom line of tens of millions of dollars. City and board staff are actively exploring funding options for the initial phase of this work.

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