Frederick County raises utility rates, lowers landfill fees -- Gazette.Net


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Some Frederick County residents will have to pay more for water and sewer services, while customers dumping trash at the countyís landfill will pay less if they use cash or a check.

The Frederick County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday night to raise fees on homes that get their water or water and sewer service from the county.

The five-member board also voted unanimously to approve a $7 cut in per-ton tipping fees at the county landfill and transfer station on Reichís Ford Road.

The county Division of Utilities and Waste Management, which runs the water and sewer service, doesnít get any money from the countyís general fund so it must generate all its revenue from fees charged for services, said Michael Marschner of the county managerís office.

The revenue goes to maintain the systemís infrastructure, such as water and sewer lines and water treatment plants, Marschner said.

The county budgeted $7.3 million in fiscal 2013 for water and sewer costs, $6 million of which came from fees collected to pay for growth, he said. Another $1.3 million came from operating reserves.

Customers who only get water from the county will see their bills increase by about 13.6 percent in fiscal 2013 to an average of $69.50 per quarter, Marschner said. There are about 603 of those customers, he said.

The typical customer uses about 15,000 gallons of water per quarter, according to county figures.

Marschner said itís difficult to determine if water and sewer customers use more than just water customers because sewer rates are set in tiers rather than billed per gallon used.

The countyís approximately 19,000 water and sewer customers will see an average increase of 4 percent to $76 per quarter, while the 8,543 sewer-only users will see their bills go down 8 percent to an average of $76, he said.

No residents spoke at the hearing that preceded the commissionersí vote.

Commissionersí President Blaine R. Young (R) said he hadnít gotten any emails about the potential rate increases, and only one telephone call from a woman who wasnít happy about the increase but understood that it had to be done.

Marschner said water usage is down countywide partly because customers are doing a good job of conserving water. But if it continues to drop, the county may need to make greater rate adjustments in the future to make up the lost revenue, he said.

Even future growth in the county may only balance out the revenue lost from conservation, he said.

Meanwhile, the countyís solid waste program gets its revenue from tipping fees paid by customers to bring trash to the county landfill, Marschner said.

In 2008, the county adopted a fee structure of $76 per ton of regular garbage and $85 per ton of construction and demolition material.

The change, approved by the commissioners, reduces the rates to $69 and $78 per ton, respectively, for customers who pay by cash or check rather than credit card.

The average residential trip to the landfill costs $10.56, said Phil Harris of the countyís Utilities and Solid Waste Management Division.

Harris said the landfill had nearly 130,000 transactions in 2011, which is in line with recent years.

The facility generated $12,753,706 in 2011, most of it from tipping fees, he said.

Fees for customers who use credit cards will stay the same because of fees associated with processing credit cards, Marschner said. Most customers currently pay by cash or check, he said.

rmarshall@gazette.net