After five years of hikes that saw the utility’s rates increase 25 percent, the Mobile Area Water and Sewer System is considering a sixth year of increases.
Beginning in 2011, MAWSS asked its customers to absorb annual 5 percent rate increases as part of a five-year plan. MAWSS spokeswoman Barbara Shaw confirmed the plan ended in 2016, but the service would again be asking for an additional 5 percent increase at a public hearing scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 15, at 6 p.m.
“Last year was the last of the five-year plan,” Shaw said. “The increase is totally for capital needs. Operating needs only went up .6 percent.”
The entire amount of MAWSS’ capital needs is not yet known, Shaw said. The utility is in the process of developing a master plan to deal with a variety of capital needs.
“We know we need a certain level each year to maintain and keep things going,” she said.
Shaw said MAWSS needs to prepare for winter. More capital money, she said, means fewer sewer overflows in the future.
“Winter is traditionally among our wetter months,” she said. “Despite the drought, we need to prepare … ”
The hearing, which is on the entire MAWSS budget, will take place at the utility’s office at 4725 Moffett Road. The rate hike will raise the average residential water and sewer bill, based on 5,000 gallons’ usage, by about $2.60 per month. The minimum bill will increase by $1.30. Administrative fees will not be affected.
While MAWSS has proposed the rate hike, some commercial customers in Midtown have been less than pleased with the utility’s response to a leak that is about a month old.
Tenants at a shopping center near the intersection of Dauphin and Florida streets said water has been flowing through the property’s parking lot for three to four weeks. They say MAWSS has come to look at it just once, but hasn’t fixed the problem.
One tenant said the utility placed gravel in the hole where the leak began, but the tenant still worries that the issue could create a sinkhole. It has blocked some customers from parking and has been an eyesore, another tenant said.
Shaw said crews have been stalled on the issue because they need to place a valve in order to shut off the water to one of the businesses. She added that the whole line would then need to be replaced.
“It’s a problem with that particular line,” she said. “They’re looking at totally replacing the pipe.”
In an email message, Shaw wrote that crews should begin work as early as this week.