Use more, pay more: Commission increases water rates for higher usage

Following a recent public hearing, the Marblehead Water and Sewer Commission has revealed new water and sewer rates for the fiscal year 2024. The adjustments are designed to manage the debt from water and sewer loans, considering escalating capital project costs and an expanded approved budget.

The Commission’s two-tier, conservation-minded rate system means customers consuming over 3,000 cubic feet in a three-month billing period pay a higher rate for usage beyond that threshold. Additionally, a customer service charge is applied to offset fixed costs linked to metering, billing and fire services.

For water, the annual administrative charge will rise from $98 to $115, an extra $4.25 per quarter. While the low-usage rate remains at $6.80 per hundred cubic feet, the high-usage rate will increase from $9.25 to $9.75.

In terms of sewer services, the annual administrative fee will escalate from $97 to $108, an additional $2.75 per quarter. The rates for both low- and high-usage remain unchanged at $11 per hundred cubic feet.

These changes come after the May Town Meeting budget approval. It enables the Commission to adjust rates based on operation costs, maintenance, debt service, construction and charges for water and sewer treatment.

Comprised of five elected members, the Commission is responsible for the operation of both the water distribution and the wastewater collection systems. All water is sourced from the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority, and wastewater is processed at the South Essex Sewerage District.

The Water Department Budget for FY 24 jumps $334,372.69, totaling $5,818,713. This incorporates increases in MWRA charges, salary increments and other expenses. The Sewer Department Budget for FY 24 is projected to reach $5,224,655, an increase of $145,246.38, which includes rises in SESD charges, salary increments and other costs.

The water distribution system under the Commission’s management consists of over 83 miles of water mains, a storage tank, more than 845 hydrants, two booster pumping stations and a billing system for over 8,000 customers. The Commission’s mandate also covers the wastewater collection system, encompassing 28 lift stations and over 100 miles of pipe, all directing wastewater to the SESD for treatment.

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