Weatherford Democrat

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June 15, 2014

Municipal board, council eyeing utility rate increase

WEATHERFORD —

By BRIAN SMITH

Municipal Utility Board and Weatherford City Council members are looking at a rate study that could ultimately lead to increases in electric and water rates.

The last rate study was done in 2009 with increases going into effect in 2010, according to Director of Water/Wastewater Utilities James Hotopp. A work session, with no decisions made, was held June 10 with other sessions scheduled during municipal board meetings June 26 and July 24 to discuss potential increases.

Hotopp said rate increases are needed to fund capital improvement projects, such as the water line project going on Fort Worth Highway right now, and also to keep up with infrastructure needs. Hotopp said the water line on the highway had between 10 and 15 breaks on it last year alone.

“Outside of Simms Lumber, we had five breaks in a two week period last year,” Hotopp said. “We estimate 40 percent of our wastewater lines are 40 years old or older right now.”

Potential rate increases all depend on how much the board and council want to finance to increase development and enhance the city’s infrastructure, Hotopp said. Making those infrastructure improvements will also allow for increased growth.

Presently the city has one of the lowest water rates for residential customers in the county. For the use of 5,000 gallons, the city charges $35.02, compared to as much as $69.35 by the Parker County Special Utility District.

According to NewGen, the company that did the rate study, potential phase-ins over a three to five year period could increase rates anywhere from $41.20 to $57.16. With all the other entities in the county facing the same or potentially worse increases, Weatherford is still expected to have some of the lowest rates in the county, the study showed.

Chris Ekrut with NewGen told the boards during the initial work session that many entities have not maintained their infrastructure as well as Weatherford did following the last rate study. By taking the proactive approach the city did, Weatherford is in a much better position heading into this rate study, Ekrut said.

Hotopp said if rates are to be raised, it should be done in conjunction with the adoption of the city’s budget, which takes effect in October. Hotopp said five years ago, discussion of rates went on into December 2009 with implementation starting in early 2010.

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