It’s looking a little clearer: Newport water and sewer rates appear poised to rise substantially over the next five years along with a first-ever storm drain fee.
Newport’s water and sewer rates are looking more and more like they’ll start rising rapidly every year for the next five to seven years to allow the reconstruction of both systems literally from the ground up. Newport Public Works Director Tim Gross told the city council Monday night that while his public works crews work hard to keep the system going, “it’s just so old that there’s a limit to what they can do unless the pipes in the ground are replaced; some of them dating back to the 1920’s and ’30s. Gross said on top of that, the city needs to also get serious about upgrading its storm drain system.
The bottom line: Sewer and water rates will rise substantially over the next five to seven years (double digits), and then rise five percent a year after that to cover ever higher costs for operations and maintenance.
In addition, Gross is proposing a nearly seven dollar a month storm drain fee be added to our monthly utility bills. As has been stated throughout public discussions on water, sewer and storm drain challenges, Newport’s underground pipe system is badly decayed in many areas of town. It’s going to be expensive to replace them, or in some instances, install them in the first place. Gross said that, in the past, there were federal and state funds to help local communities upgrade sewer and water systems, but those funds, for the most part, are no longer available.
If city councilors go along with the plan, and most seemed to indicate they would, combined sewer and waters bills for a typical Newport family would rise, over the next 10 years from today’s $67/month up to $165.77/month. A woman in the audience walked up to the witness bench and said she could never afford those rates and strongly urged the council to find other sources of money. She also chided the city council for, what appeared to her to be, councilors embarking on a one-way trip to breaking the budgets of many households in the city.
In the end, councilors agreed to take up the matter at their next regular meeting next month, this in an effort to give the public time to chew on what some call a giant betrayal of previous generations who used up the sewer and water systems yet didn’t pay hardly anything toward replacing what’s already in the ground.
Gross said full details of the city’s range of options for rate increases can be found in his report to the council, now online at the city’s public works web site. Click here.
As for the $6.80/month storm drainage fee, Gross said he would like to see that instituted as soon as possible. The council takes all this up again at their first meeting in June.