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Water, sewer rates to rise

Starting May 1, Demopolis residents will see a slight bump in their sewer and water bills, but it’s all in the name of progress, a water works official said.

The Demopolis Water Works and Sewer Board announced the rate hike Monday. For residents within the city limits, there will be only a 25-cent increase in the costs of their first 3,000 gallons of water. The increase is slightly more outside of the city limits, where water-usage costs will rise 30 cents to $16.50.

The increase is similar for sewer rates, with a 25-cent bump up to 3,000 gallons flushed, up to $13.25.

However, water works office manager Paula Brame said, there hasn’t been a rate increase in more than two years, as many surrounding municipalities have boosted rates to offset the cost of aging systems.

“We have gradually taken rates up in past years, so we wouldn’t have to hit the public all at once,” Brame said.

The increase will help the Demopolis Water Works and Sewer Board pay the required matching funds for around $11.5 million in improvements made to the city’s sewage system in past years, she said. That includes $6.5 million to modernize the waste treatment plant and another 5 million to expand and improve sewer system coverage, as well as running a “force main” to pump waste from the Industrial Park back toward the city.

“We’ve worked really hard to keep our costs down,” Brame said, “so we could keep rates low for our public.”

Though it’s not specifically figured into the rate increase, Brame said the rise in gas prices have hit the water works pretty hard. They have to keep trucks full so water meters can be read, plus the fuel costs of equipment used to repair lines.

Brame said gas prices are “just killing us,” averaging an extra $400 to $500 every month.