The Newburgh City Council is considering passing an ordinance to increase water rates. Although it isn’t legally required, the council will hold a public hearing to discuss the ordinance.
The desire to increase water rates came after the current water fund was reviewed. “The City Comptroller expressed concerns over how we would fund some of our expenses related to the water fund,” said Michelle Kelson, Corporation Counsel, during last Thursday’s City Council work session. “Which include a very large tax bill that we have to pay to the town of New Windsor for the improvements of the water filtration plant related to the construction of the granular activated carbon system.”
The granular activated carbon system is one of the many efforts to improve water quality after it was discovered that Stewart Air National Guard Base was a major source of the recent PFOS/PFAS contamination. PFOS/PFAS stands for per and polyfluoroalkyl substances.
Before the contamination, the city didn’t need to spend money on raw water retrieved from Lake Washington and Browns pond. But there was cost in treating the raw water and distributing it.
According to Kelson, water rates have not been raised since 2013. The last ordinance that was adopted to raise the water rates was in 2012. Kelson said that the costs of providing water have continued to increase, regardless of the source of the water.
“In order to maintain the health of the enterprise fund, the comptroller has proposed that the rates be increased,” said Kelson.
It is proposed that the inside city rates increase by approximately 60 cents per thousand gallons. It is proposed that the outside city rates increase by a dollar per thousand gallons. At a quarterly rate for the five-eighths of a main, there is a proposed increase of four dollars each quarter.
“What we’re trying to avoid is the problem that we had with the sanitation fund where it was in the negative,” said Kelson. “We’re trying to do this in a more gradual way. I know a number of the residents had complained that the increase [in sanitation rates], that was adopted earlier this year, was a big burden or a big impact. This increase is incremental, but it is necessary. It is an ordinance, you [the City Council] are not legally required to hold a public hearing. But I have heard the public, I have heard your [the City Council’s] concerns about making sure the residents and customers have the opportunity to voice their opinions.