Norwood Town Council discusses water, sewer rates with community
Published 9:09 am Tuesday, March 2, 2021
At Monday’s meeting of the Norwood Town Council, a councilman made a presentation to the board and community about water and sewer rates.
Wes Hartsell talked about the town’s recent increases in water rates and how those rates compare statewide.
The town’s entire budget for water and sewer is $1.7 million, of which field operations make up the majority ($1 million) with the rest for water treatment ($462,000) and wastewater treatment ($239,000).
According to Hartsell, of the money spent by the town on water and sewer, 18 percent goes to debt, 5.9 percent for contract and professional services and 13.9 percent to water and sewer line repairs, which often was not enough for the annual repairs on the lines.
In a graph showing the increases for the last 30 years for other utilities such as cable and electricity, Hartsell said other utilities have increased far more than the town’s water rate, noting cable rates are up 350 percent and electricity 250 percent.
The town’s water rate is up about 175 percent from 1990 after increases in 1996, 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2012, along with steady increases since 2017. Hartsell said that was because it was required to do so, otherwise the state would come in and operate the water system and decide the rate.
Using 3,000 gallons of water and sewer rates as a benchmark, Hartsell said the rates for such across the state range from $27.40 to $230, with the median charge at $79.72 statewide.
Norwood charges approximately $50 for 1,000 gallons of water and sewer, with each gallon above costing .006 cents per gallon. For 3,000, that number adds an additional $12.90 to the pervious number for nearly $63.
When new meters were put in, rented on a 10-year contract, revenue generated by the meters went up 6.9 percent in sales while the overall difference per month from the new meters to the old ones, which required someone to read them, was about $2,500.
“It’s kind of a wash,” Hartsell said about the new meters.
Other factors which continued to raise the costs included increases in chemicals and electricity rates along with wages paid to staff, the plants and the frequent and costly repairs to the town’s old infrastructure, some of which has been in place since the 1920s.
Hartsell noted the laws changed where stormwater drains into a treatment plant are no longer allowed, a law not in place when the town was built. Currently, heavy rains often cause the plant to overflow into the river, which can bring fines from the state.
Town Administrator Scott Howard likened the money the town has been losing on water and sewer to a plane about to crash, saying the plane is still going down, but not as quickly with the increased rates.
“These are just the facts…I assure you they are doing everything we can to save every nickel we can,” Hartsell said of the town’s staff.