A proposed change in the fee structure for customers of the Mobile Area Water and Sewer System (MAWSS) will result in future rate hikes, MAWSS Executive Director Charles Hyland told reporters on Monday, Dec. 9.
The proposed rate hikes are expected as the system transitions from a declining block structure, where water gets less costly as the usage increases, to a more uniform structure. The changes, which will be brought to a vote of the system’s board of commissioners on Monday, Dec. 16, will result in a 3 percent increase in sewer rates in 2020, a 6.5 percent increase in 2021, a 4 percent increase in 2022 and a 4 percent increase in 2023.
“If the board approves them, they would be reviewed on an annual basis,” Hyland said.
This announcement follows a 5 percent rate increase last year, which was preceded by five straight years of 5 percent increases, starting in 2013.
For the average residential water user on MAWSS’s system, the monthly bill would increase from $60.75 per month to $63.66 per month. For minimum users with less than 2,500 gallons, the monthly bill would increase from $32.68 in 2019 to $34.99 in 2020. For heavy users of 7,500 or more gallons, the bill would increase from $88.83 per month in 2019 to $92.34 in 2020. The annual difference in those bills would be equal to $27.72 for minimum users, $34.92 for average users of 5,000 gallons or less and $42.12 for heavy users.
The increased rates will be used to replace infrastructure and pay for increasing maintenance costs as the roughly 2,000 miles each of water and sewer pipes in the system reach the end of their useful life, Hyland said.
He said the increases would help MAWSS target issues, like rainy day sewer overflows and other problems caused by the system’s aging infrastructure. Hyland said 40 percent of the city’s current sewer pipes are over 50 years of age and were not designed for a heavy intake of water. As the area is inundated by various rain storms, the sewage mixes with the water and overloads the system.
To help combat this issue, MAWSS has completed construction of a stormwater attenuation basin (SWAB) on Halls Mill Road. It is designed to redirect sewage and stormwater to a system of basin for storage until the system’s functions can be normalized. Since the SWAB has been in use, Hyland said, the area around it has not seen sewer overflows caused by stormwater.
The system is currently renovating an 8 million gallon stormwater attenuation tank (SWAT) near Three Mile Creek, which will cost $3 million in 2020. Hyland said the system is currently looking to acquire property near Eslava Creek to build a SWAT there as well.
In addition, MAWSS plans to spend $68 million on various construction projects, which are all slated to begin next year.
The new fee schedule, if approved, would go into effect Jan. 1.
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