Opinion Your Views — 06 June 2013
Water rates to get an overhaul

To the editor:

Let’s face it: Not many of us want to discuss wastewater treatment rates. We just want them to cost less. Well, we have some news that Alexandrians may find welcome and unexpected.

The board of directors of Alexandria Renew Enterprises — formerly Alexandria Sanitation Authority — is eliminating Virginia American Water’s account service charge as part of our plans to restructure residential and commercial wastewater treatment and disposal fees, which will start October 1 and continue until October 2015.

This change will save customers, like you, the unpopular and burdensome $6.78 account service charge associated with costs billed by Virginia American Water, which were tacked onto our customers’ water cleaning bills each quarter. As you may recall, Alexandria Renew severed its billing and customer service relationship with Virginia American Water last year and is doing these duties at a reduced cost.

Combined with the elimination of the service charge, many residential ratepayers will see no increase in their bills. Some may see their bills even decrease.

Yes, you read that correctly. 
 Residential customers using less than 45,000 gallons of water each quarter will see a reduction in their Alexandria Renew bill. The average residential customer uses about 12,000 gallons per quarter.

Now, there also will be a modest increase in the wastewater usage — also known as gallonage — charge on your bill. But given the changes I just described, many of our ratepayers will still see no changes in their bills.

Starting October 1, Alexandria Renew plans to charge an additional 15 cents per 1,000 gallons used — a new rate of $6.51 per-thousand-gallons used versus $6.36. There will be small rate increases for each of the following two years.

The total rate restructuring for the 3-year span is 26 cents. It’s important to note that our rate has not changed in the past three years and remains competitive with those of other water-cleaning facilities in the region.

The recommended rate increase will cover Alexandria Renew’s billing and customer service costs next year and inflation and normal cost increases in 2015 and 2016 for services used and received to clean dirty water. And rest assured, there will be no change in the Chesapeake Bay Protection Fee.

There are two reasons for the small rate restructuring, and both are important.

First, we need to continue to build and maintain infrastructure to meet tough and demanding environmental regulations from the state and federal level that are complicated and continually changing. Great communities like Alexandria deserve great water.

Second, we face inflation and increased operating expenses in the out-years. However, by insisting on excellence and efficiencies in all operations, we have been able to minimize the impacts of higher costs.

We welcome public comments on this plan. You can visit our website at www.alexrenew.com. You will find a link that will give you an opportunity to send your comments.

We also invite residents to share their thoughts on the rates at a public hearing, where we will hear comments on this plan. The hearing will be at 7:15 p.m. June 18 at Alexandria Renew’s administrative building, 1500 Eisenhower Ave. We will hold another public hearing at 7:15 p.m., July 23, to vote on the plan, and we again welcome your comments. We hope to see you there.

- John Hill
Alexandria Renew Enterprises board chairman

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