Berlin Council Okays Water Rate Hike

BERLIN – Water rates in Berlin will go up over the next four years, but consumers will not see much of a difference in their bill.

The Berlin Mayor and Council passed the water rate increase at Monday night’s town council meeting.

“Over a period of four years the total increase is $3 a month,” said Berlin Mayor Gee Williams.

The water system’s operating and maintenance costs are currently running at a deficit.

“We can’t run a deficit indefinitely. It’s temporary,” Williams said. “This will bring our rates back in line so we can continue to maintain our water system.”

“I think we have to do this,” said Councilwoman Lisa Hall.

Special connection fees for new water hook-ups will also go up. The council approved the increase in water rates and the special connection fee unanimously.

While water rates were the subject, Hall asked the council to consider increasing the water rates for sprinkler systems, which are on separate meters in Berlin.

“The fee needs to be looked at,” Hall said. “We’re actually spraying drinking water on our lawns.”

Water run through a sprinkler system meter costs less than the same water run through the house system.

“It’s a luxury and a privilege to be able to spray drinking water on your lawn,” Hall said.

The lower cost is not fair to residents using hoses to water their yards, said Hall.

Increasing fees for metered sprinkler systems is like changing the rules, Councilwoman Paula Lynch said. “Those folks paid a lot of money to put in an extra meter,” said Lynch.

Hall said she did not realize what was going on until she saw the water rate report earlier in April. Hall questioned why the sprinkler meter accounts charge less for water.

The water used is not going back into the sewer system, said Councilman Troy Purnell.

The first 8,000 gallons is inexpensive from a water treatment standpoint, said Water and Wastewater Director Jane Kreiter.

During public comments, resident Jim Hoppa urged the town council to look at a different fee system for water, saying that the more you use, the less you pay. This practice does not encourage water conservation, Hoppa said. He suggested charging a flat rate for every 1,000 gallons of water used.

“That way, the more you use, you’re going to be paying more,” said Hoppa.