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Water rates could be going up

| Monday, Feb. 26, 2007

Improved technology will cost customers of the North Fayette County Municipal Authority.

The board has not yet voted to increase rates, but has discussed increasing rates by $5 per quarter for residential customers and about 12 percent for customers who use large amounts of water.

Bob Softcheck, general manager of the North Fayette County Municipal Authority, said the board will likely not act until March and any increase would not take effect until July.

"The last time we had an increase was January of 2003," said Softcheck.

The average residential customer uses 15,000 gallons and pays $63 per quarter.

Softcheck said the increase is necessary to maintain and update the system. "The industry is getting so sophisticated. We need to invest in more computerized systems."

North Fayette currently serves slightly more than 15,000 customers.

Because North Fayette is a municipal authority, the board determines rates, rather than the Pennsylvania Utilities Commission. "The PUC governs private investor-owned utilities," Softcheck said.

Both North Fayette and the Pennsylvania American Water use the Youghiogheny River as their primary source.

Pennsylvania American Water is regulated by the PUC. It serves 372 communities in the state, including Connellsville.

Philip Cynar, communications specialist for the water company, said it will likely apply for a rate increase this year.

Pennsylvania American currently charges residential users $5.73 for the first 1,000 gallons per month. Commercial users pay $5.73 for the first 16,000 gallons, then $4.61. All customers pay a monthly $11.50 service charge.

"Our rates are set by the PUC," Cynar said. "We can't just change the rates or increase them without the PUC approval."

Pennsylvania American last increased its rates in 2003, with the current rate becoming effective in January of 2004. Cynar did not know how much the rates or service charge increased in 2003, nor how much the company would propose for the current increase.

"We will advertise when we apply for a rate increase. We usually apply in the spring or fall and receive the decision by the end of the year," Cynar said.

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