$15 water bill hike on tap in Lee

Published Oct 10, 2018 at 4:00pm

TOWN OF LEE — Bills for town water district customers are up about 8.4 percent in the latest six-month invoice due at the end of October, and Lee Supervisor John Urtz says an even larger increase is likely in the next installment due in April.

The current $192 bill rose from $177 to “cover costs and increases for salaries,” Urtz told the Town Board Tuesday night, referring to the town water supervision position becoming full-time earlier this year after previously being part-time.

In addition, the bill likely will include a “much larger increase in the spring,” based on a pending new water-purchase agreement with the City of Rome that includes a rise in what the town pays for buying water from the city’s system, Urtz said after the meeting. The town’s costs for buying water are passed along in billings to the approximately 1,300 customer accounts in Lee’s water system.

Urtz did not specify how much higher next spring’s bill would be on top of the newly set $192 six-month installment. But during the meeting he observed the city has sent notification that the new rate charged to the town will be $4.0597 per 1,000 gallons of water used, to be reflected in a first-quarter billing due to the city in April.

The town has been buying water from the city at a rate of $3.17 per 1,000 gallons used since 2016, despite city notifications since then of price increases that had driven the rate to $3.87 per 1,000 gallons. Urtz said in July the town would not pay the additional cost until a new water-usage contract with the city was completed.

The town has been discussing a new contract with the city including an updated rate study, and town attorney David Rapke told the board “we’re supposed to be in receipt of a draft agreement from the city corporation counsel this week.” The town and city can “hopefully...get this finalized” and “clear the ledger” regarding amounts due, he commented.

The city’s pricing increases for Lee have been related to major renovations in Rome’s water system, including tunnel repairs and filtration plant upgrades among the measures.

Rome Mayor Jacqueline Izzo has said the town can make up the difference in payment amounts due under the latest rate once an agreement is reached. Urtz said there would be “both sides...calculating” net amounts, noting the town has a “charge-back to the city” affecting part of the payment; the town has been receiving some credits from the city for providing water service for about 200 city customers near Lee’s southeast border due to city water-pressure problems.

“It’ll all come out in the wash,” Urtz remarked.

The town has been seeking a new 5-year water-usage agreement with the city that would extend to the start of 2021. Urtz said the pending new agreement, once approved, would be retroactive to the start of 2016, when the prior agreement expired; the town has continued buying water from the city in the interim.

Lee overall buys about 155 million gallons of water annually, said Urtz. By 2022, he added, a metering system for customer billing is expected to take effect in place of the town’s current flat-rate bills, in conjunction with the city’s plans to add water metering for its residents in addition to the current commercial-user metering.