Rehoboth Beach Holds Town Hall for Proposed Water & Wastewater R - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Rehoboth Beach Holds Town Hall for Proposed Water & Wastewater Rate Increases

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REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. - Higher water and wastewater rates could help Rehoboth Beach pay off a $40 million loan from the city's outfall project and fund $30 million in maintenance on the wastewater treatment facility. The city held a town hall Saturday to help educate its residents on proposed rate increases.

Over the next 12 years Rehoboth Beach is projected to fall $20 million short in funds to maintain its water system. To help prevent that, those who live and work there could soon see a 30 percent increase to water and a 60 percent increase to wastewater rates.

"We've done the ocean outfall, we've spent about $42 million of the $52 million expected back in 2015, but those numbers have increased and we've found more and more things down at the plant that need work as well as the infrastructure for the water system," says Mayor Paul Kuhns. 

The city's Utility Rate Working Group proposes new rates of $14.70 for every thousand gallons of wastewater used and $6.30 for every thousand gallons of water used, as well as an annual ready to serve fee for one-inch meters.

"If you use 1,000 gallons in the winter, you pay for 1,000 gallons in the winter. If you use 10,000 gallons in the summer, you pay for 10,000 gallons in the summer," Kuhns explains. 

While some residents agree that the rates need to be raised, many of those who attended this morning's town hall don't feel that the recommended rates are fair to those who live here full-time.

Wym Achebaum agrees that there is expensive work that needs to be paid for. "We've had a base rate that was a year-round rate and then a peak surcharge that was in effect for six months of the year," she recalls. 

"We need to keep the peak rate and we need to keep the minimum rate so that homes that sit empty 40 to 50 weeks of the year are making some kind of contribution to the capital system." Mark Betchkal adds. 

Kuhns agrees that this system worked in the past, but says it won't work in the current situation.

"We've not been able to find any research or analysis that makes sense for that," he says. 

The mayor says the proposed rate structure would actually prevent a larger spike in the long run and that the new rates would be spaced out as work is completed on both the plant and water infrastructure.

"We've got them in four year chunks," he says. "They're going to be spread out to try to smooth them as much as possible."

Kuhns says the interim rates for the July billing cycle are already in place and he hopes that the commissioners can make a vote before the next billing cycle begins in October.

The city intends for the rates to flatten out once maintenance and construction is completed in the next four to five years. Kuhns says they will continue to review the rates on an annual basis. 

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