The Canal Winchester Times

Aqua Ohio

Upgrades cited as reason for rate hike request

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Madison Township residents may be paying an additional $7.31 per month for water if Aqua Ohio is granted a rate increase.

The company sent a letter to Madison Township administrators Oct. 24 explaining that due to investments in infrastructure upgrades in Franklin County and in the other 22 counties it serves, it had submitted a rate increase request of 11.6 percent to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

The request still must be reviewed by the PUCO, including the holding of public hearings. Aqua Ohio representative Greg Odell estimated it would be almost a year before the agency would vote on it.

If the rate increase is approved, it would show up in customers' next billing cycle.

The letter to township officials served as the company's 30-day notice about its intent to file a request with the PUCO.

"Aqua anticipates new rates for water service will become effective in the second half of 2014," Odell said. "The process is a good 11 months after our application. PUCO will go through our books and there will be a public hearing."

The last increases in rates, which included hikes in both sewer (4 percent) and in water service (13 percent), occurred in 2012.

There is no increase to the sewer rates being requested at this time.

Aqua Ohio is awaiting EPA approval of its plans for installing water-softening devices to address Madison Township residents' complaints about taste and other hard water issues.

"We're awaiting our EPA approvals. We expect comments from them, if there are any, in a week," Odell said during the Nov. 20 Madison Township trustees' meeting.

"We have all of our equipment orders in and we're ready to go as soon as the approval comes," he said. "This is typically a couple-months-long project, so it'll be done early next year."

Trustee Gary McDonald questioned Odell as to why the new rate increase is based on an average water use of 4,000 gallons per month as opposed to previous rate increases that were based on 4,500 gallons per month of use.

"So you cut the average rate down, which makes the increase even higher," McDonald said. "My concern is that when you went into this water-conditioning project, we asked about cost and we were trying to get a cost amount out of you, which we believed would be about $3 more per month."

In May this year, after announcing a $1.2-million system upgrade, Aqua consultant Jeff La Rue told residents the cost of the system would be spread across all Aqua Ohio customers, not just those in Madison Township, and suggested a much lower increase in rates.

"There won't be any extra charge for this work on anyone's bill until the next rate case decision can be made, and we don't know when that will be or what the decision in regards to that," La Rue said at the time. "I think the cost to Huber Ridge customers was about $1.27 per CCF."

A cubic foot of water, or CCF, amounts to 748 gallons, which means a rate of $1.27 per CCF is equivalent to an increase of $6.79 for a use of 4,000 gallons per month -- slightly below what this rate increase will cost residents.

At the Nov. 20 meeting, Odell responded to McDonald, saying the company had hoped to keep the increase under $10 per month and believed that the savings associated with improved water quality would cover the increase for most customers.

"With the system improvements in place by the time this rate increase is approved, you can stop using your personal water softener, which will save on salt and power costs," Odell said. "For those customers without water softeners, the water will now be at levels where you'll only need to use half your amount of laundry detergent, so that will be helpful, too."

McDonald thanked Odell for taking the time to explain the increase, and for the company's investment in Madison Township.

"I want to thank you; you're one of few companies that's actually worked with us instead of ignoring our needs, but we still need to take another look at these rates," McDonald said.

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