ST. GEORGE – Starting July 1, St. George residents will paying more for their water. A rate increase was approved by the City Council Thursday that covers the increase in cost of water bought from the Washington County Water District, as well as the cost of maintaining the city’s water infrastructure.
The City Council unanimously approved an increase of around 30 cents per 1,000 gallons of water used by each customer. The increase for an average household is estimated to be an additional $3 per month.
Approximately 96 cents of the $3 increase originates from the water district’s moving to charge St. George an additional 10 cents per 1,000 gallons it buys from the district, or $1 per customer per month. St. George is one of eight cities in the county that buys part of its water from the conservancy district and will be subject to the rate increase.
The additional $2 per customer per month will go toward maintaining and improving the city’s aging water infrastructure.
“We do have aging infrastructure and water lines break occasionally,” Scott Taylor, the city’s water services director, said Thursday. “We’re seeing our infrastructure is starting to age,” he said.
Water lines tend to have a lifespan of about 50 years, Taylor said, and the older they get, the more prone they are to breaking. The city maintains about 800 miles of water lines with 170 miles that may need replacing in the future, he said.
Aging water systems are a nationwide problem, Taylor said, though St. George seems to be faring better than some cities. Citing a study conducted by the American Water Works Association, he said a city is doing OK if it only has about 10 breaks in its pipeline per 100 miles. By comparison, St. George has around six breaks per 100 miles.
Still, city officials want to get ahead of any potential problems, Taylor said.
“It’s either pay now or pay later,” he said.
While the city staff likely has little intention of recommending another water rate increase next year, City Manager Gary Esplin said, Mayor Jon Pike said the same can’t be said for the Washington County Water Conservancy District.
Until recently, the last time the water district raised its wholesale rates to municipal customers was 2006. The recent 10 cents hike per 1,000 gallons approved by the district’s board of trustees could become an annual occurrence for the foreseeable future, Pike said.
The rate increase didn’t come without opposition. Resident Kenneth Gee told the council the increase, along with other potential hikes in taxes and fees, would negatively affect those like himself who are on a fixed income. He also questioned whether or not the city was potentially wasting money on employees who don’t put in an honest day’s work.
Both Pike and Esplin were quick to defend the city’s employees.
“You don’t get away with doing nothing in this organization for very long,” Pike said.
As for the water rate increase, Pike said he believes that past and current City Council members and city staff have maintained a practice of trying to keep water and power costs as low as possible. As well, he said, revenue gained from the rate increase will be set aside specifically for the maintenance needs of city’s water infrastructure.
“When you start skimping on that is when you have problems with your infrastructure,” the mayor said.
The City Council approved many other fee increases for items related to Leisure Services, such as fees associated with the Sand Hollow Aquatic Center, as well as registration for races and arts festivals. The rate increases go into effect July 1.
The council recognized and honored Ski Ingram, a veteran and commander of American Legion Lester Keate Post 90 in St. George. Ingram, who has been involved in many veteran-centric events and the community in general, is moving to Gilbert, Arizona, to be closer to family.
Annual daytime water restrictions were enacted. St. George residents are encouraged to water their lawns and gardens between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. only. The restrictions tend to last through September.
The 2016-17 city budget was approved by the council.
An engineering services contract for proposed Bloomington Drive improvements was approved by the council for $86,000
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