BROCTON - Portland water district customers can expect a rate increase in their April billing following the passing of two resolutions at the recent Portland Town Council meeting.
Members of the council's water committee met recently with the town's financial advisor, Dan Laurito of Bahgat & Laurito-Bahgat, regarding discrepancies that exist between what individual and master water meters are reflecting for usage and what is being paid out to the Village of Brocton by the town for water resources.
The discrepancies were the result of a billing mixup which was resolved.
There are, however, some aging water meters that are scheduled to be replaced in Portland water districts, and Laurito advised the council that only a $4,000 profit was made on water for the fiscal year 2012, and for the 2013 fiscal year, no profit is projected.
In their discussion about the decision to increase rates, which Laurito suggested to the council especially to reflect an attempt to run profitable water districts in the instance that the town would be audited, Town Clerk Roxane Sobecki noted, "Even a profit of $4,000 isn't enough to run a water district; that's not enough money for operation and maintenance."
As the council stands in wait to see what direction the village of Brocton will be taking in regard to overhauling its water infrastructure, the potential for a rate increase to be handed down as a result weighed in their decision.
"If the village of Brocton decides to go through with this water project, are they anticipating a rate increase? If they kick one down to us, we'll have to have a rate increase too," noted Councilman Rick Manzella.
Town Supervisor Dan Schrantz noted it would depend on what direction the village decides to take, adding, "It just shows the importance of a regional water system to make water available to our customers. If the village of Brocton has to upgrade their plant, that could mean a big increase."
Asking for a consensus from Councilmen Jerry Boltz and Rick Manzella (Gary Miller and Al Valentin were not present) Manzella noted, "We can't operate in the red, and certainly can't take money out of the general fund (for operation and maintenance.)"
The council resolved to increase water rates by .50 per 1,000 gallons in Portland water districts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 and resolved to raise the minimum water charges for Districts 1, 3, 5, 6, and 7 to $63 for the first 5,000 gallons used. New rates will take effect immediately and will be shown on the April 2014 billing, according to the official resolution. The town clerk said she would do her best to notify customers via the town's website and other correspondence so that customers are not surprised by their new billing rates.
The council also amended its water shut-off policy reflected in resolution 04-82-11, to take immediate effect. All water customers in Portland water districts will have a 15-day grace period after the published due date to pay their water bills. A water shutoff notice will then be sent with a 15-day due date for payment in full before water service is terminated. A $3.50 service fee will be added to the late notice.
In the meantime, water superintendent for the town, Drew Smith, will continue running interference by identifying aged meters in need of replacement in the town. Smith has been taking individual meter readings to compare with master meter results in order to accurately capture where any major leaks or other maintenance issues that could affect billing are located.
CROP-PLUS member Diane Hofner, who was in attendance for another matter, asked council members for a copy of any testing being done in Lake Erie offshore of the NRG plant to test for residual coal ash pollution in light of Dunkirk taking the lead stance on the proposed regional water system.
Smith noted that an extensive list is published of testing that takes place as far as four miles from the shoreline, and agreed to give a copy to Hofner.