Water meters

Courtesy photo/City of Palestine

City workers repair a broken water pipe earlier this year. Aging water pipes are one reason council members want an increase in Palestine's water rates, which now rank among the state's lowest, and have risen less than 30 percent in the last 25 years. 

Average city residential water rates will rise 56 percent, effective Oct. 1, under a plan approved, 6-1, by Palestine City Council members. Many residential users with sprinklers, and most commercial users, would likely see increases of 80 percent.

Higher water rates would give Palestine another $2 million for sorely needed infrastructure projects, Finance Director Jim Mahoney told the Herald-Press Wednesday. “Our infrastructure is horrible,” he said.

Council member Mitchell Jordan cast the sole dissenting vote on the plan.

Increases would apply to water rates only, City Clerk Teresa Herrera said. Typically, a city water bill has several other costs added to it, including trash pickup, street sweeping, and a meter replacement charge. Those rates will remain the same.

A public hearing on the overall budget will take place Monday in city council chambers.

Under the plan, base rates for water – applying to up to 2,000 gallons a month – will rise 15 percent, from $6.30 to $7.25 a month.

The average Palestine household, however, uses 5,000 gallons a month.

After 2,000 gallons of use, up to 20,000 gallons a month, consumer rates will rise $2.96 per 1,000 gallons, or 80 percent, from $3.70 per 1,000 gallons to $6.66.

That means water charges for the average 5,000-a-gallon-a-month household will rise to $27.23 from $17.40, an increase of $9.83 a month, or 56.5 percent.

Now, Mahoney said, Palestine reports the state's lowest rate for 5,000-gallon-a-month users in similar-sized cities. Palestine water rates have increased only 28 percent since 1993, he said, while general inflation has risen 78 percent.

Increases for those using 20,000 gallons a month or more would mostly affect commercial users and residents who regularly use lawn sprinklers.

Those rates would rise from $4.53 to $8.15 per 1,000 gallons, an increase of $3.62, or 80 percent.

The increases were recommended by members of the Financial Oversight Management Committee.

The water rates would increase revenue to the city by more than $2 million.

That money would go to critically needed projects, including rebuilding or repairing water mains that also would result in repairs to the streets above them. The city will coordinate water and street projects to stretch dollars, Mahoney said.

Last year, the city collected about $3.14 million in water-metered sales. Water-rate increases would increase that to roughly $5 million.

Infrastructure repairs are costly: Replacing the city's service pipe alone would cost about $16 million.