WALLINGFORD — The Public Utilities Commission voted 2-1 Tuesday night to approve a 6.6 percent increase in water rates.
The commission gathered in a conference room of the Public Utilities Department, 100 John St., to discuss the water rates. Public Utilities Commission Chairman Robert Beaumont and commission member Richard Nunn voted in favor of the increase.
A public hearing was scheduled for 7 p.m., giving residents an opportunity to speak about any issues or concerns with the increase.
The average residential customer, with a 5/8-inch water pipe and a yearly consumption of 8,000 cubic feet, will pay an additional $2.05 per month for water. Town residents receive water and sewer bills on a quarterly basis.
This year, the increase was due to fixed costs and the reduction of water consumption by customers because of more awareness abou water usage. Last year, water rates increased by about 5 percent due to maintenance costs and reduced consumption. The increase last year added $1.61 per month to the average residential customer’s bill.
After sewer rates increased last year, there will be no increases for this year. Last year’s sewer increase added 13 cents per hundred cubic feet of consumption, or 72 cents to the average customer’s bill.
Only one resident showed up to Tuesday night’s meeting, but he had questions regarding a different topic than the water rate increase.
The only commissioner to vote against the increase was David Gessert. Gessert told the other commissioners that he reviewed Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr.’s budget proposal and noticed he kept each department’s request below a 3-percent increase.
Gessert said he wanted the increase to be closer to 3 percent, rather than 6 percent, for the sake of the town’s residents.
“There are an awful lot of people in town,” Gessert said. “People are getting nickel and dimed every time they turn around. If we kept this to 3 percent, the budget increase for the water department keeps it within the guidelines with what the mayor is doing for other departments. I feel very strongly (we) have to keep it under control.”
Gessert also mentioned water main work, which is a capital improvement project for the department.
A plan has been put in place to have the town’s water mains updated over the next 50 years.
“In our budget, there’s $1 million worth of work for the water main project,” Gessert said. “I was wondering, instead of $1 million, can we reduce it — not eliminate the project — to something like $800,000 to impact the increase.”
Public Utilities Director George Adair said because of the scope of the work and the project’s duration, it didn’t seem likely.