Thursday, October 23, 2008

Another Rate Hike for Athens Residents

By Ryan Scarpino

Tough times for residents of Athens just got a little tougher. Mayor Paul Wiehl told the media Wednesday that beginning January 1, 2009, there will be a 3% increase in city water rates. And though that may sound like a small amount, it will have an impact on those living in the city.

The Water Hike
A 3% increase adds up to a few cents or at the most a few dollars on monthly water bills. The mayor said the city hoped a gradual increase would help those citizens with fixed incomes.

Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl

Mayor Wiehl said, “The idea is to look at it this next year and start looking at your budget in terms of a rate increase for water. Technically, I've been talking to other mayors in other cities and the philosophy is you really want to do this consistently all the time because you have to build in a certain amount of maintenance as well as increases from everything from salaries to energy and things like that.”

Nick Carr, director of water and sewage, said, “I think the gradual increase is a lot better, especially for people on fixed incomes. You know if they just get a one or two or three percent increase versus a ten or twelve percent increase it's a lot less burden on them.”

Director of Water and Sewage Nick Carr

That Sounds Reasonable, BUT
Only few weeks ago, AEP Ohio told its customers that there will be a 45% increase in their electric bills by 2011. That electricity rate hike is also one of the reasons the city needs to increase water rates--the water plant's electricity costs will go up too.

The increase in electricity costs is only one reason for the water rate hike. Nick Carr explained, “Well, two of the main reasons for the increase is an increase in chemicals. Number one, you've probably done a story on road salt. Road salt is expected to go up about three times about what it was this past year.” Also, due to the price of salt increasing, citizens of Athens may have to deal with a taxe hike too.

And all with those things, the rise in price for electricity, a possible tax increase for the price of salt and then throw in a water rate increase, residents are concerned that they will not be able to afford their bills.

Meet Bob, the Concerned Resident
Bob Meholif lives on East State Street. He is a full time student and resident of Athens. He pays all utilities: electric, gas and heat, garbage, telephone, cable and internet, sewage and of course water. And though he does not have a monthly budget per se, he only spends $50 a week, $35 of that going towards food. So what happens to Bob when his bills come if he only spends $50 a week?

Athens Resident Bob Meholif is a little worried

He said, “The money that I could be spending somewhere else now is going to be spent on bills. And I'm probably going to have to pick up another job if it hikes too much. I may have to live at a different location. I may have to size down and I won't be able to drive any places. I'll have to watch what I eat, and I won't be able to go out as much. It's going to affect me greatly.”

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