New Utility Fees In Berlin To Go Into Effect Sept. 1

BERLIN– Town residents will see a variety of fee increases on their utility bills next month.

Rate increases approved by elected officials in July are set to go into effect Sept. 1. The average resident will see their stormwater fee double and the implementation of new capital fees for water and sewer.

“We will put a message out before it goes into effect,” Finance Director Natalie Saleh said.

In July, the town council approved two resolutions aimed at improving the financial condition of the struggling utility funds. The council agreed to double the residential stormwater fee, increasing it from $50 a year to $100 a year, and to increase the non-residential rate to $35 per ERU (equivalent residential unit) annually with a minimum of $100. The increases are meant to help fund capital projects the stormwater utility hasn’t been able to afford in recent years.

“We’ve been looking at a stormwater fund with no investment in capital projects,” Mayor Zack Tyndall said at the time. “We hear that as one of the chief complaints from the residents, that our streets are flooding and our stormwater system is not up to par.”

During that same meeting, officials implemented new water and sewer fees. The new capital service fees came after a water and sewer rate study by the Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project (SERCAP). One of the key recommendations from SERCAP’s Jean Holloway was the implementation of a new rate to help build a capital reserve. The resolution approved by the council sets a water capital fee of $5 a month for residential customers and $10 a month for commercial customers. The sewer capital fee would be $14.50 a month for residential customers and $29.50 a month for commercial customers. In all, it equates to an extra $19.50 a month for most residents.

“For water and sewer it’s a fixed fee,” Saleh said during Monday’s council meeting. “It will be called the capital service fee.”

She said the town would create a new bank account to hold the fees.

“That fee will be set aside for future projects for water and sewer capital improvements,” she said.

Tyndall spoke to the fact that much of the town’s piping and infrastructure dated back to the mid 1900s and was in need of replacement. He noted that while the town was using its American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for some projects, that money wouldn’t last forever.

“I think the point that sometimes is missed in the fees is that we’re dealing with a lot of aging infrastructure and the saving grace has been ARPA but that is going to run out,” he said.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.