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Water Numbers Examined Ahead Of Council Vote on Rate Increase

December 12, 2013
By DAVE GOSSETT - For The Intelligencer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

City officials spent nearly two hours explaining why a water rate hike is necessary as Steubenville City Council prepares to make a decision on the increase.

But several residents attending the utility committee meeting Tuesday appeared to remain opposed to the rate hike that will take effect early next year if council approves the legislation next week.

"When are we going to have a game plan so we are not back here in three to four years with similar problems," asked city resident Joe Scalise.

And city resident Tonie Dear questioned if council had spent enough time reviewing all options.

"The proposed rate hike includes a flat $3.90 fee for every water customer that will be used to build a capital improvement fund. Customers will be charged an additional $1.30 for every thousand gallons of water," explained Water Department Superintendent Mike Wigal.

Wigal started the two-hour conversation with council members and public stating the water filtration plant on University Boulevard is now seven years old.

"It is a very good plant but sometime we have to take short cuts in our maintenance at the plant because of financial issuers," Wigal said.

But the major reason for the proposed water capital improvement fund is a planned replacement of water lines and valves, which Wigal said are decades old.

"We have had 14 breaks in the last two weeks. It's getting out of control and we need to take care of our infrastructure. If we get the money in place we can move forward and start fixing our water lines. Our water pipes for the most part are cast iron that corrode and break. We will replace those pipes with a more flexible plastic pipe that is just as strong as the iron pipes and will last longer," Wigal said.

Wigal said Neptune Technology is preparing to replace all water meters in the city starting with large commercial accounts first.

Meanwhile, Finance Director Alyssa Kerker said the city is making progress with the collection of delinquent water accounts.

Mucci said if the water fund is not addressed it may be placed under fiscal caution by the state. The state would come in and run the system. That is the reality if we don't put the $6.50 increase in place."

The third and final reading of the water rate increase is set for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the council chambers.

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