By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
GREENVILLE — The town board is expected to raise water rates and could approve a 26% increase at Monday night’s meeting.
If rates go up, it would be the first time the town has done so in many years, Town Supervisor Paul Macko said at the March meeting of the board.
“We haven’t had a water rate increase in Greenville in more than 15 years,” Macko said. “I really and truly think that if we had to do it all over again, we would have increased by 1.5% or 2% each year so the people aren’t smacked upside the head with a 26% increase.”
The precise rate has not yet been set. Project Manager Travis Smigel, from Delaware Engineering, presented the town board with a couple of options and a decision is expected to be made at the April 17 meeting.
The increase is aimed at reducing a budgetary shortfall in the Water Department, Smigel said.
“The current budgeted revenue for 2023 is $156,595,” Smigel said. “Based on what the calculated revenue for last year was, the town was going to receive $96,255, so they are well off the budgeted amount.”
If the expected 26% rate increase is implemented, it would bring the town close to the budgeted amount, he added.
For the average water user, the increase could go from the current water rate of $56.20 for 10,000 gallons of water a quarter to around $70 a quarter, the most likely scenario, but other options are on the table, according to town officials.
At the projected new rate, for the average water user it would cost about 77 cents per day for water, Town Supervisor Paul Macko said.
“If you had a well, you couldn’t run the electricity for your pump for that amount,” Macko said.
In addition to rates that haven’t been raised in 15 years, the Water Department faces other challenges as well. Unlike most neighboring towns, Greenville does not charge homeowners for a final meter reading when they sell their home. Other communities in Greene County charge anywhere from $50 to $100 or more for the final reading.
A decision on implementing a final meter reading could be included in the water rate increase that is expected to be adopted Monday.
The Water Department is also contending with an unreliable meter reading system that has led to mistakes for some property owners.
“We are still having growing pains with the software program for reading the meters and the electronic scanner. Sometimes it just goes berserk,” Macko said. “I had one unit up at Country Estates, it was a [woman] who had been in a nursing home for 90 days, there was no water usage and they paid the basic rate — $166 for water and sewer. This last reading, still nobody there, and the usage was 104,000 gallons of water in a quarter. I think the scanner they use doesn’t translate well to the software.”
The error was not an isolated incident, and sometimes goes in the other direction, he said.
The Tops supermarket on Route 32 generally pays about $1,500 a quarter for water and sewer combined, but their most recent bill was not in line with their typical usage, Macko said.
“The bill it spit out this month was $166.10,” the town supervisor said. “They would be doing backflips if they had a bill for $166.10. So we are having some real consistency problems with the software package.”
Town Councilman Richard Bear said the town needs to do something to resolve the inconsistency issue with the meter reading system.
“We’ve worked on it, we’ve upgraded it,” Macko said. “Over the last couple of years we have done quite a lot.”
One option for addressing the issue could be installing an upgraded system using federal COVID relief funds, which can be used for water and sewer infrastructure, so that could be a solution. The town will continue to address the issue.
A decision on the water rate increase could be made at the April 17 meeting of the Greenville Town Council. If that happens, the new rate would go into effect with the next water bill residents will receive.