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No vote coming Tuesday on Warrenton water-sewer rates

Friday, Oct. 9 | By James Ivancic
There won't be a vote on higher water and sewer rates Tuesday at the next Warrenton Town Council meeting.

A public hearing on the matter will be continued to allow more comment about the proposal but a vote won't be taken, Mayor Powell Duggan said at the Town Council's work session on Thursday.

“The consensus is that we will be turning this over to Brannon and we will not be voting on Tuesday,” Duggan said, referring the Brannon Godfrey, Warrenton's new town manager who began his duties on Monday.

The prospect of a rate increase stirred up the business community, which had speakers at last month's hearing with more expected to take a turn at the microphone next Tuesday. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the Council meeting room at town hall, 18 Court St., Warrenton.

“It is costing us $50,000 a month to kick this down the road,” said Council member Yak Lubowsky, who heads the utilities committee. “We are going to have to engage it. We need to work with some dispatch.”

The $50,000 refers to the shortfall of revenue to cover operating expenses.

He said that there isn't a special rate proposed for businesses. Most are served by a 5/8-inch meter, the same size that serves residents, he said. “There will be some affected disproportionately,” such as the White Horse Auto Wash and Fauquier Hospital, he acknowledged.

There are 850 businesses, according to the town's count, and 245 to 250 have meters larger than 5/8 inch.

Vice Mayor Sunny Reynolds said “we need to hear the business community” and At-Large Council member Sean Polster said “we did a disservice when we did not engage them and bring them on board like you did with the Mosby House,” referring to a recent open forum led by Lubowsky to get ideas about what to do with the historic home in town.

“We did a horrible job of rolling this out,” said Duggan.

The town's water and sewer fund is an enterprise fund, meaning it is supposed to be self-sustaining. It doesn't receive general fund tax revenues. Operational and maintenance costs and capital maintenance projects are to be covered by monthly service charges and commodity fees kick in for higher volumes of water used. Availability fees paid by developers and individual home builders provide revenue for capital improvements.

The proposed new rate structures focuses on meter size for the base billing up to 2,000 gallons of monthly usage with a three-tiered rate structure for usage above the minimum with variable rates for each tier. Rates for out of town customers would be higher.

The report from the consultants who made the recommended changes can be viewed on the town's website at http://www.warrentonva.org There. is also a calculator that customers can use to figure out their bill for each option being considered based on their meter size.

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