Last week I proposed two topics that need to be considered with regard to present and future water rates – billing cycles and minimum rates.

Having said that, the Town of Marlinton billing cycle may be the biggest factor in understanding our water bills. Consider the following:

Fact #1: The Town of Marlinton bills customers once every two months. This is a 60-day billing cycle.

Most towns bill on a 30-day cycle. Therefore, to compare ours to other towns, you must double the dollar amount of their bill, or calculate one-half of our bill, to compare with your present minimum bill.

Please note: To reduce the minimum payment amounts, I have considered going to a 30-day billing cycle. But, a 30-day method would double man-hours involved in reading meters as well as increase administrative costs. Postage currently costs $500 per billing and that amount would double.

I do not believe 30-day billing is the answer.

Water customers have the option of paying one-half of the bill on a monthly basis, if that is more convenient.

Fact #2. At present, Marlinton’s minimum water bill is based on four thousand gallons. Other towns begin at two thousand gallons, then, 2,400, 3,000, 3,400, or somewhere in between.

This is a variance that must be considered and can make a significant difference.

Minimum gallons may be a variable to consider in new rates, but, most complaints don’t come from minimum users.

Fact #3: Many Marlinton residents see their utility bill as being only a water bill.

In reality, the minimum residential, in-town bill includes water, sewer and garbage fees, plus the two percent utility tax.

Here is a personal example for comparison: Before my mother passed last year, she complained about water rates. I did not think much about it until I began paying her bills. She lived in Randolph County and was on the Huttonsville-Mill Creek PSD. (PSC ranks H-MC PSD as cheaper than The TOM).

Here are the differences:

Mom’s monthly minimum water/sewer rate was/is: $97.11 for three thousand gallons, w/garbage, the total was/is $117.16.

Marlinton customers monthly minimum cost is: $47.19 for two thousand gallons, w/garbage, the total is $62.94 plus two percent tax.

Water only on H-MC PSD system is $45.99 per month for three thousand gallons, .01533, w/garbage $66.04

Marlinton/Brush Country water is $30 per month for two thousand gallons, .015, w/green box fee $38.67; and if new water rates were set at $35 per month for two thousand gallons .0175 – an increase of one-fourth (¼) of one (1) percent.

For comparison sake:

Mom’s minimum one person, water/sewer and garbage for a 60-day period would be $234.32

Marlinton’s current minimum bill for the same 60-day period is $128.39

The expected new Proposed Rate for water, sewer and garbage = $138.39.

Current cost for Brush Country customers:  $60 water + green box fee of $8.67/month = $77.34

If the proposed or expected rate goes into effect: $70 water + green box fee for two months will be $87.34.

These facts are the unemphasized parts of the story when people are talking about Marlinton water rates. The issue that really stands out is our sewer and garbage rates may be too low.

The problem locally is what we see around the country. Government spending and higher water bills do not gather much public support. According to advisers in water industry associations, cities have to decide whether to make improvements, or not. Where then, will the money come from to make these repairs and improvements? Prices will undoubtedly rise in the future, because the price of doing nothing would be worse.

In closing, I defer to my NASCAR analogy. I have often observed the first 10 positions are within a second and a hundredth apart. On Monday, after the race, few remember who came in second through 10th place.

Still working for our community.