ST. ALBANS – Water rates are rising in St. Albans.
To balance water usage and rising expenses, St. Albans City Council approved a 4.1% rate increase to be applied equally across its service area at its Monday night meeting. .
Tom Leitz, director of city administration, said even with the increase, the city of St. Albans still has lower rates compared to other municipalities in Vermont.
“A few months ago, we applied to the USDA for funding for the water tower, and the response was, ‘Your water rates are too low. There are no grant funds available. So I guess compared to our competitors in Vermont, we’re doing well,” Leitz said.
The tariff change will cover a 1.6% increase in water budget operating expenses, which is expected to increase from $2,687,449 in 2022 to $2,730,902 in 2023.
This decision also makes it possible to cover lower utilization rates. Leitz said residents and businesses have installed low-flow devices and found ways to reduce the amount of water they use, which has reduced usage revenue. The city still has to cover the department’s operating costs and infrastructure debt service, however, so the rate hike will help fill the gap.
Council Chairman Chad Spooner said he’s aware of people’s feelings about the city’s water rates, but he said the payment was worth it for what it provides.
He estimated that his household, a family of three, ends up with a water budget of around $100 a month, but compared to a full septic tank, which can cost upwards of $50,000, the water bills City water is not too high.
“It’s clean, good-quality water, and it’s reliable,” Spooner said. “People complain, but I’m telling you, it’s a godsend.”
Council also approved a 30 cent increase in storm water charges, which would bring the charge to $12.00 per equivalent residential unit.
During Monday night’s meeting, Leitz highlighted the new spending by explaining the proposed water, sewer and stormwater budgets to the council.
They include an additional $80,000 that would cover the purchase of radio signal water meters that the city is slowly installing, an additional $10,000 to service the city’s debt to help it prepare for possible costs related to the new Aldis Hill water reservoir project and some increases in the salary items of the various departments.
The city has adopted a program to encourage its workers to obtain certification related to the management of its water and sewer infrastructure, and the additional funds help pay for the program, Leitz said.
Regarding the water reservoir project, he explained that the city will not have to worry about servicing the debt of the project for three years, but the construction, which is expected to cost 2.5 to 3 million, will add an additional $100,000 to the city’s total over 20 years.
In the 2023 budget, the water service debt service is $520,759.
Once construction of the new reservoir is complete, the old reservoir, built in the 1960s, is expected to be refurbished at a cost of approximately $1 million.
In addition, St. Albans City Council has also taken the following actions:
– Gave approval to use approximately $36,000 in American Rescue Plan Act dollars to pay for environmental site assessments of two ongoing housing projects. The first would provide $23,400 to pay for work at 191 Lake Street, where a 68-unit apartment building is to be built, and the second would use $12,992 to complete the ongoing assessment of 24 Maple Street.
City manager Dominic Cloud said there aren’t many grants available for the environmental site assessment, and ARPA dollars can help fill the void.
“It just ticks a lot of boxes, from infill development to housing,” Ward 4 Alderman Mike McCarthy said. “If we’re going to use ARPA money for anything. This is exactly the kind of thing we should be doing.
– Had a minute’s silence for former City Clerk Curry Galloway who passed away on Sunday, June 5. She had held the position for the past four years before leaving due to health issues.
– Approved two policing policies related to the St. Albans Police Department’s Duty to Respond and how officers treat prisoners and use the department’s holding area.
– Adopted two proclamations for two June events: Pride Month and June 16 National Independence Day.
– As a liquor board, approved two outdoor dining areas for local businesses Nourish and City Side Pub.
City Side Pub is the Shooter’s Saloon’s new name, which is set to change due to Lisa Blouin’s assumption of the property’s rental lease.
– Extension of the emergency ordinance establishing a four-way stop at the intersection of Federal and Lower Newton streets.
– Approved several candidates for board committees. KarenMarie Peltier was approved to serve on the Design Advisory Board, and David Glidden and Matt Preedom were approved as representatives of the city’s Northwest Regional Planning Commission.