WSSC water, sewer rate hike hearings scheduled in Montgomery, Prince George's
Public to comment on proposed 8.9 percent increase
A proposed 8.9 percent increase in water and sewer rates will be up for discussion at public hearings in Montgomery and Prince George's counties next week.
If approved, the rate increase would add about $5.30 per month, or $63.60 per year, to bills for an average household served by the Washington Suburban Sanitary System, which provides water and sewer service to roughly 1.8 million people in the two counties.
A hearing in Rockville is set for Feb. 3 at 7:30 p.m. in the Stella B. Werner Office Council Office Building, 7th-floor hearing room, at 100 Maryland Avenue.
A hearing in Largo will be held Feb. 2 at 7:30 p.m. in the RMS Building, Room 308, at 1400 McCormick Drive.
The proposed rates would support a $1.19 billion budget that represents an 8.6 percent increase.
Of $94.2 million more in proposed spending above this year's budget, most about $71.6 million would go toward capital projects, and about $22.6 million would go to operating expenditures.
Much of the new capital spending would go toward the addition of advanced sewage disposal technology at the regional Blue Plains treatment plant, which serves the District of Columbia and part of Northern Virginia as well as the WSSC. The money also would go toward wastewater handling improvements at Broad Creek in Prince George's.
Some also would go toward the continued replacement and rehabilitation of large water mains, many of which have passed their life expectancy and are producing record numbers of ruptures, including disruptive and destructive ones like Monday's in Capitol Heights, which shut down part of the Capital Beltway and offices of the U.S. Census Bureau and damaged nearby property.
The WSSC proposed budget includes plans for replacing at least 29 miles of water mains. The utility has replaced more than 25 miles of water mains since July 1, putting the utility slightly ahead of its plan to replace 36 miles of water mains during the budget year that ends June 30, WSSC officials told The Gazette in an e-mailed response.
The budget plan also calls for adding about 52 workers, including 21 in customer care and 24 more in engineering and construction. The new construction jobs are part of a move toward relying on WSSC employees instead of contractors for water main replacement and repairs, because in-house workers can more easily and quickly be dispatched where needed.
WSSC financial officers said employees cost the utility about the same as contractors, which they plan to continue to use to augment the utility's crews. The utility will need the new construction employees for many years given that the water main program calls for replacing 55 miles per year for the foreseeable future, they said.
To speak at a hearing, call the WSSC in advance at 301-206-8110.