Council Unanimously Turns Down Water Rate Increase

The Derry Town Council will not pass on a water rate increase to customers, preferring to find the $10,000 shortfall in the budget and work with Manchester Water Works (MWW) to keep costs down.
Thomas Carrier, Deputy Director of Public Works in Derry, attended the Oct. 1 Council meeting to discuss a proposed rate increase for customers, stemming from the utility company’s increase to the town. But the Council, citing too many recent rate increases, voted 0-7 not to increase customers’ rates for now.

Carrier told the Council that MWW had increased its wholesale rate 2 1/4 percent, resulting in an additional $10,000 billed to the Town of Derry. Carrier said that on June 20, the board of directors for MWW approved a 2.25 percent increase as part of its annual budget approval. Carrier explained that MWW has experienced “stagnant” growth over the past 10 years, and is dealing with added costs of water production, main replacements, power and labor.
The Public Works staff recommended an offsetting increase of 0.03 cents per 100 cubic feet in the retail usage rate and a .17 cent increase in the minimum quarterly base charge, effective Dec. 1, 2013. The new minimum quarterly base charge would be $23.20, and the new usage rate $2.53 per 100 cubic feet, up from $2.50 per 100 cubic feet.
“It is less than a $1 increase on the average bill, and still lower than other communities,” Carrier said.
There were no speakers in a public hearing on the proposed change.
Councilor Neil Wetherbee asked when rates were last raised, and Carrier said this past March. The 1 percent increase was under MWW’s prior budget, he said. When the utility crafted its new budget in June, the 2.25 percent increase was added.
Wetherbee said, “I don’t think I’ve seen a rate increase since I’ve been on the Council. Now there are two in six months.”
Councilor Mark Osborne also objected and asked, “Are there third or fourth increases waiting in the wings?”
“There could be more,” Carrier said.
Councilor Brad Benson said, “We go through a budget process and approve a budget, rates and capital projects. An increase in the middle of the year – it does not sit well with me.”
Councilor Tom Cardon suggested Carrier speak to Manchester Water Works about the Council’s concerns, and Carrier said he would.
Carrier said if the Council chose not to pass on the increase to customers, the increased amount could be dealt with as part of next year’s budget process. Wetherbee and Chairman Michael Fairbanks said they preferred to see it as part of the budget process, and not pass the increase on to taxpayers at this time.
“We can ‘eat’ the $10,000 for one year,” Wetherbee said.
The motion to approve the rate increase for customers failed, 0 – 7.