The cost of water likely to rise for Riverhead residents

TIM GANNON PHOTO | The 'tin man' style water tower on Pulaski Street in Riverhead.

Some Riverhead Water District customers may be paying more for water for the first time since 1988.

Although, technically, the town is not planning to increase rates; water district officials are proposing to offer less water for the same rate.

H2M, a consulting firm, was recently hired by the district to do a water rate study, and to update the water district’s master plan, and the rate study’s recommendations include the increases.

“We estimate that the district is running at a $600,000 to $750,000 deficit with the existing water rate,” said Dennis Kelleher of H2M, who outlined the proposed rate increases at Thursday’s Town Board work session.

Water bills are based on meter sizes.

Mr. Kelleher is recommending keeping the minimum bills the same for all meter sizes, while reducing the amount of water provided for those with the minimum bill to 4,000 gallons for the 5/8th inch meter and 12,000 gallons for a one-inch meter.

Currently, you get 7,000 gallons for the 5/8 inch meter with a $10.90 minimum charge, and 16,000 gallons for the one-inch meter with a minimum charge of $19.90, according to Mr. Kelleher. Those charges would remain the same, under H2M’s proposal.

H2M also proposes increasing the charge per 1,000 gallons for all water usage above the minimum from $1.10 to $1.40 per 1,000 gallons.

“Based on these changes, we estimate the additional water sales revenue to be approximately $750,000 for a typical water use year,” Mr. Kelleher said.

“So the district will break even,” Supervisor Sean Walter said.

The water district has been borrowing from other town districts to fill the deficit, according to Supervisor Sean Walter, who said the water district owes the general fund $500,000.

Mr. Kelleher also is recommending rate increases of five cents per 1,000 gallons for 2013 and 2014 in order to help defray the cost of repairs and rehabilitations to the system.

The Suffolk County Water Authority, which does not operate in Riverhead Town but does so most other towns in Suffolk, has rates of $1.58 per 1,000 gallons, with a minimum quarterly bill of $19.77, for the 5/8th inch meter, and $26.86 for the one-inch meter with a 4,500 gallons limit.

While those rates are higher than Riverhead’s, officials point out that the Riverhead district also gets some funding from property taxes, which the SCWA does not. In recent years, SCWA has made overtures to acquire Riverhead’s water system, something town officials have opposed.

Town Board members Thursday agreed informally to go along with the proposed changes.

The water district plans to include the rate changes in an upcoming newsletter that will be sent to residents.

Board members are considering holding a special meeting to approve the changes.

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