Water rates increasing this month

The St. Marys Area Water Authority has announced that rates for customers in St. Marys and Fox Township will increase slightly in March. The authority's board of governors approved the increase, which goes into effect March 1 and was explained in a notice sent via postal mail to authority customers. According to Dwight D. Hoare, P.E., manager of the St. Marys Area Water Authority, the increase is due to debt service to cover replacement of the 20-inch water main serving the entire system and higher operating costs. The main line runs from the plant at Laurel Run to the two, 2-million gallon general service storage tanks on Poplar Road. Hoare said the authority has been working over the last decade to replace the water main. "The last third of that line was replaced last year, so when we talk about replacement costs, that’s what we’re talking about," Hoare said. "This would be the increased debt service, which is basically our payments, to pay that out."That was the first major driver, was the cost to replace that last third of line and the second driver would be increased operating costs, just general expenses from the authority."According to the notice, the new, residential readiness-to-serve charge will be increasing to $11.50 per quarter and the metered rate from $2.83 per 1,000 gallons to $3.05 per 1,000 gallons for residential use. According to Hoare, the typical residential customer using the average 20 thousand gallons of water in a three-month period would see an increase in their quarterly bill from $66.10 under the current rate structure to $72.50 under the new rate structure. Bills for area businesses will vary widely depending on their water usage. "The cost to replace the last third last year was about $1.2 million," Hoare said. "The entire project was a multimillion-dollar replacement of the entire line, spread over a little over a decade.