BVU is prepared to strap customers with a series of rate increases.
On Monday, the board voted in favor on the first of two readings, to include the following increases in the budget:
Electric – 5%
Water – 5%
Sewer – 15%
Cable – 10.5%
BVU Board Chairman Ed Harlow said the increase isn’t just a should. It’s a must.
“Infrastructure is beginning to deteriorate. We’ve reached the point of actually no return, where we’re going to have to upgrade some of our systems. Because if we don’t, we are not going to be able to even maintain what we have,” Harlow told News Channel 11.
BVU’s Board of Directors voted 8-0 in favor of the utility’s budget, with one member absent.
The average utility customer, if subscribing to sewer, water, electric, and cable services, will foot a rate increase of $16.95 per month.
“The 5% that we are putting on the water, is the bare minimum. That’s just through 2016 only,” Harlow said.
“I think it’s ridiculous because the prices keep going up,” Linda Fuller said, a BVU customer for the past seven years. “People can’t afford the rates right now. A lot of people are going to be sitting in the dark not by choice, but because they have no other choice.”
Harlow says unfortunately, they too see no other choice.
“We always raise rates as a last resort, because we do realize we have ratepayers who are on fixed incomes and ratepayers who work hard every day and barely make ends meet. And this will put a strain on them. And we do sympathize with those individuals…given the circumstance, we don’t have any choice,” Harlow said. “This is the first rate increase that I had voted in favor of after being on the board for five years. I voted against all the rest of them because they were just rate increases. That’s not what this is. This is for specific projects that have to be done.”
“We are at a critical point in the repairs. We’ve had some overflow issues, we have water losses and it’s because the plant is an aging system. Assets that should have been replaced that were on a 40 year replacement cycle have now been in continuous use 50 to 60 years,” BVU Marketing Director Sharon Kyser told News Channel 11.
“We have studies to go back to 2003, I think was the latest one, and it was recommended that we do exactly what we’re doing now,” Harlow said.
Harlow said the sewer system is very close to being out of compliance with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.
“If you’re not in compliance, not only can you be fined, but you can be mandated. And given a certain amount of time to correct the problems. And then if you’re mandated, the cost is going to be much more in excess of what our rates increased would be. Instead of seeing a 15% increase probably in the sewer rates, you would probably be looking at maybe a 60 or 65% increase because they only give you a certain amount of time to get those projects done,” Harlow explained.
Kyser admit, “it is at this point pretty much do or die.”
When asked if the rate increase is at all related to a recent federal investigation, Kyser said, “”Not at all. That is a separate issue, the money involved in those federal cases was primarily grant funds related to our Optinet installations. Those dollars are completely separate, as far as we can tell there were no ratepayer dollars involved at all. The gentleman involved were not responsible for the water plant or the electric plant at that time. They were over the Optinet system.”
The sewer and water service increases are set to take effect July 1st, while the electric and cable increases could take effect October 1st.
The final reading and vote on BVU’s budget will be June 22nd.
Copyright 2015 WJHL. All rights reserved.