After several weeks of discussion, Reynoldsburg City Council gave final approval Feb. 25 to an extra charge that will increase water rates by an additional $1 per 1,000 gallons of water use and sewer rates by 50 cents per 1,000 gallons of use.
It will be the second increase since Jan. 1, when water rates were increased by 6 percent and sewer rates by 4 percent to cover additional charges by the city of Columbus, from which Reynoldsburg obtains its water.
The capital improvement project fee approved Monday is a separate charge that is expected to generate about $1.3 million that city officials said will be used to repair broken and damaged water and sewage lines.
Nathan Burd, director of public service, said the average resident uses 13,000 gallons of water per quarter.
"At that amount of usage, the proposed fee would cost $6.50 a month, or $19.50 a quarter," he said.
Burd said the CIP fee was proposed to generate enough funds to repair deteriorating water lines.
"Many of the water lines in the city are 50 to 60 years old," he said. "Over the last three years, 121 emergency main-break repairs have been completed by water department staff."
Burd said an estimated $1.68 million worth of water purchased from the city of Columbus is projected to be lost in 2013 because of leaks in Reynoldsburg's lines.
He said Reynoldsburg's recently approved capital improvement plan for 2013-17 identified more than $5.3 million worth of water projects and more than $2.6 million worth of sewer projects needed over the next five years.
The list includes replacing water main lines at Brauning Drive, Crest Street, Gilmore Drive, Marlan Avenue, Olde Mill Run, Red Fox Road, Roselawn Avenue, Sabre Avenue, Saratoga Avenue and at Astor Avenue and Lucks Road.
Burd said the city will start collecting the CIP fees in August as payments are being made for second-quarter billing covering April through June.
Because the city purchases water and sewer services from Columbus, rates could go up every year, Burd said.
"Establishing a CIP fee will allow us to direct that revenue to necessary projects and use the standard rates for operational expenses," he said. "This will enable us to minimize the annual increase required above and beyond the Columbus rates."
Councilman Cornelius McGrady III asked Burd and Mike Root, superintendent of water-wastewater, to try to come up with scenarios for senior-citizen and low-income discounts for the CIP fee.
Burd and Root came up with a few scenarios, including reducing the CIP rate to $1.35 per 1,000 gallons of usage for about 2,255 senior-citizen accounts, but the savings figured out to only 40 cents a month.
Exempting senior citizens entirely from the fee would produce a loss of about $108,240 in revenue each year, Burd said.
He said enacting any kind of discount would mean determining at what age senior citizens would qualify for a discount and the need to set up an enrollment process to show identification and proof of age.
Council also would need to determine whether to increase the CIP fee on non-seniors to cover the cost of the discounts, Burd said. If not, the city might not have enough funding to address water and sewer infrastructure needs, he said.
"Because the proposed CIP fee is based on usage, we would prefer to implement it without discounts, verify the amount of revenue it will produce and then, if possible, explore discounts," Burd wrote on a memo to council members.
Councilman Chris Long said he is continuing to work on a water conservation project that could help residents recoup some money from the higher water rates if they buy water-saving devices from the city's participating business partners.
"True Value and Lowe's have both signed on in extending a discount on the purchase of water-saving devices," Long said. "I see this as an opportunity for our citizens to work with us to reduce their water consumption."