A possible 5 percent rate hike was not voted on during the Mobile Area Water and Sewer System Board of Commissioners meeting on Dec. 19. Instead, commissioners will await the results of a cost-of-service study to determine future rates, MAWSS spokeswoman Barbara Shaw said.

The cost-of-service study by Hawksley Consulting will help the board properly identify costs associated with providing water and sewer services to four categories of customer — residential, industrial, commercial and wholesale. It will also look at any associated fees for providing those services, Shaw said, like an “infrastructure replacement” fee.

“The study will review the rate structure and alternative methods of raising rates,” she said. “It will also review affordability issues in developing rate options.”

The study will also look at the rate structure and help determine the best fit for MAWSS. It is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2017.

It will be the first rate study in eight years for the organization completely funded by customers.

“It’s good to look at rate structure every so often,” Shaw said.

MAWSS initially considered the rate hike, which would have been its sixth consecutive increase, due to its significant amount of aging infrastructure, Shaw said. Over the past five years, MAWSS raised rates 5 percent annually.

“Like the rest of the nation, MAWSS has a significant amount of aging water and sewer infrastructure that is reaching the end of its useful life,” she said. “Buried underground, it is not readily seen by users. Consequently, the need for infrastructure renewal is not as apparent as roads or other infrastructure, but just as critical.”

Leak at Old Shell Road and Florida Street
Tenants at a strip center near the intersection of Old Shell Road and Florida Street in Midtown recently complained about a leak MAWSS crews hadn’t fixed in what they said was weeks. At the time, Shaw said crews were working to replace a valve to shut off the water and then repair the line. She added that a new line would eventually have to be put in.

Shaw wrote in an email message that the valve had been replaced and the line has been fixed. She wrote crews worked at midnight Dec. 8 so as not to disrupt the businesses further.

“Water is essential to both the dry cleaner and yoga studio,” Shaw wrote. “The cleaners opens at 4 a.m. and the yoga studio at 6 a.m.”

The line will be completely replaced by the end of January, she wrote.

“The retail stores asked that we not do it during their busy holiday season,” Shaw wrote. “The work will be done in conjunction with the new service line for Publix.”