The Washington County Service Authority (WCSA) Board of Commissioners voted to authorize a new rate structure and financial plan following a public hearing Monday evening at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon, Va.
The newly adopted rates result in two changes for WCSA customers: effective May 6, a decrease in water and wastewater connection fees and, effective June 1, an increase in monthly user fees. Residential water connection fees will decrease from $4,560 to $1,628, while residential wastewater connection fees will be reduced from $3,800 to $3,235. A typical WCSA residential water customer who uses 5,000 gallons per month will see an increase of less than a penny per gallon, or between $2 and $3 per month. Wastewater customers will experience similar cost adjustments.
“In reviewing WCSA’s rate structure, we didn’t just look at our capital needs, but also carefully reviewed our operating costs,” says Joe Chase, chairman, WCSA Board of Commissioners. “Last year, in our pursuit of continuous improvement, WCSA worked to reduce costs by $100,000 per year. As has been the case in the past, WCSA staff continue to look at all aspects of our operations to reduce costs, which helps keep rates lower.”
WCSA General Manager Robbie Cornett points out that WCSA’s drinking water is delivered to the tap 24 hours per day, seven days per week, for almost a penny per gallon, compared to approximately $1 per gallon for bottled water.
Cornett adds that the WCSA Board of Commissioners had been considering its rate and financial plan for the past nine months.The board developed the plan with assistance provided by a nine-member Citizens’ Advisory Task Force, comprised of individuals representing Washington County customer groups. The task force was unanimous in its recommendation to the WCSA Board of Commissioners.
Charlotte, N.C.-based Raftelis Financial Consultants, Inc., which focuses on providing consulting services to water-industry utilities, provided a third-party analysis of WCSA’s proposed financial plan and revised rate structure.
“WCSA’s financial plan and rate adjustments are aligned with stakeholder pricing objectives and designed to support the financial viability of an organization that provides critical and essential services to its customers,” says Bart Kreps, senior manager at Raftelis Financial Consultants. “Water and sewer rates in Virginia and across the country are increasing, and this trend will continue as utilities address infrastructure re-investment needs and meet new, more stringent regulatory requirements.”
Cornett states that in addition to keeping costs low, achieving or exceeding regulatory compliance is equally important for WCSA.
“While the financial health of WCSA is important, our customers also expect us to meet the public and environmental health needs of our customers and the environment,” he says. “In 2013, WCSA met or exceeded all quality standards.”
Additionally, WCSA has been recognized by numerous organizations and agencies. Last month, WCSA was presented the Virginia Department of Health’s 2013 Excellence in Waterworks Operations/Performance Award for the 10th consecutive year. Earlier this year, the utility was recognized by Water System Operator Magazine for its system upgrades and use of technology to improve operating efficiency.
More About WCSA
The WCSA serves approximately 21,000 water connections and more than 2,000 wastewater connections in Washington County, Va., and surrounding areas. The water system consists of approximately 900 miles of water line, a new (2014) 12-million-gallon-per-day surface water treatment plant, a 2.5-million-gallon-per-day membrane filtration plant, two springs, one well, 26 pump stations and 24 water storage tanks. The wastewater system consists of approximately 100 miles of wastewater collection lines, 29 lift stations and two wastewater treatment plants. For more information about WCSA, visit www.wcsawater.com.