Written by Sarah Vogelsong
Council denies rate bump that would have offset nitrogen reduction costs
HOPEWELL — City Council has denied a request by city administration to increase residents’ sewer rates by 5 percent to help offset the cost of mandated upgrades and delinquent payments.
The June 13 vote followed a presentation given in May by Hopewell Water Renewal Director Jeanie Grandstaff in which she highlighted several increasing costs that the wastewater treatment facility is facing.
The largest of those costs are related to improvements Hopewell is required by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to make to decrease its nitrogen emissions into the James River and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. Mitigation efforts have increased the plant’s operations and maintenance expenses by about $1.8 million.
Other factors contributing to the request for a rate increase include the need to replace the facility’s sewage collection system, declining water consumption among customers and several years of unusually high bill delinquencies.
Hopewell Water Renewal recouped only 81 percent of the payments it assessed on customers in 2015, leading to combined losses of $664,000 from 2012 through 2015 that had to be written off. Since then, Grandstaff reported in May, the facility has taken steps to reduce delinquencies and has increased its collections rate to about 96 percent to date.
The proposed increase would have been instituted across the board. According to water engineering consultants Draper Aden, Hopewell has the lowest sewer rates in the region, a position that would have remained unchanged even with the 5 percent bump.
• Sarah Vogelsong may be reached at email@example.com or 804-722-5154.