Mayor Says Water Rate Hike Was Long Overdue
Doubling Annapolis' water and sewer rates was a change needed to ensure water services are self-sufficient, officials said Thursday.
The timing may be abysmal, but starting this month, water and sewer rates will nearly double for most residents of Annapolis.
Mayor Josh Cohen and Public Works Director David Jarrell met with community members at Georgetown East Elementary on Thursday for the first of two planned informational sessions regarding the city's new water and sewer rates.
The City Council voted the new rates into action in June, along with its fy 2012 budget. These new rates will turn the average quarterly bill of $86 into $166, and it goes up for heavier water users.
To learn more about how your rates will be affected, check the city's website here for a rate calculator.
The city was faced with aging infrastructure and sewer rates that were 10 years out of date, said Jarrell. For these reasons alone, a rate hike of this caliber was long overdue.
The city should have begun water and sewer rate increases a decade ago, but delayed that decision until this year, he said. For years, the city’s general fund has subsidized the cost of providing water to the city’s residents. But these new rates would make the service self-sufficient.
“The city really should, for the last 10 years, have kept up with inflation,” Jarrell said. “They did not, and so unfortunately, we have to raise the rates to get the prices to where they should be.”
Cohen started the meeting by addressing why the city council had to rase the rates this year, saying that the city had waited too long for this moment. But now was the time to start being financially responsible.
Several residents spoke up during his talk, saying the new fees felt unfair, given the economic climate.
“I agree that it’s a terrible time to increase any fees,” Cohen said.
Cohen said he and the council worked hard last year to “stop the bleeding” of its unsustainable budget history, which ended with a large number of layoffs. This year, Cohen said the goal was to ensure the city’s future wouldn’t be filled with unforeseen pitfalls. Part of securing that future is becoming sustainable today, he said.
“My focus was to look long-term. What are the city’s long term liabilities? How can we avoid being in the headlines five to 10 years from now, going bankrupt because we don’t have the revenue?” Cohen said.
Jarrell said some of the city’s water infrastructure was 100 years old. He showed off an old pipe, sawed off from deep underground, lined with inch-thick mineral deposits calcified over decades, barely retaining its form. Pipes like these have carried the water throughout the city’s infrastructure for the past century.
"A hundred years ago, Teddy Roosevelt was president, Las Vegas had a population of 30 people, and your water system was brand new," Jarrell said.
The officials also detailed how some of that new revenue would be used over the next few years. The city will begin paying back borrowed funds, and preparing for the construction of a new water treatment plant—an upgrade Jarrell said is long overdue.
The meeting also addressed ways residents could lower their costs by reducing water usage. Attendees on Thursday’s meeting were entered into a raffle for a rain barrel, which one lucky resident ended up carting home afterward.
Environmental stewards Suzanne Poqell and Rick Kissell showed off the rain barrel beforehand, noting that it could be used to water gardens and other supplementary uses at no cost to residents.
“The best strategy to reduce your bill is to conserve water,” Poqell said.
The second public forum will be held July 20 at 7 p.m. at Mount Olive Community Life Center.