The City of Hazard voted unanimously at its April meeting to raise the rates its customers pay for water.
The change to the ordinance sets forth that customers inside of corporate limits will purchase a minimum of 2,000 gallons at a rate of $17.62 monthly, and those who exceed 8,000 gallons of use in a month will pay $6.25 for each additional 1,000 gallons and all users who use more than 10,000 gallons a month will pay $5.25 for each additional 1,000 gallons.
Customers outside of corporate limits will pay for a minimum of 2,000 gallons at $21.54, while those who exceed 8,000 gallons a month will pay $8.25 for each additional 1,000 gallons and those who exceed 10,000 will pay $7.25 for each additional 1,000 gallons. The rate for the City of Buckhorn will be $8.25 per 1,000 gallons.
Officials said during the meeting that the main purpose behind the increase is to update a system that is desperately in need of improvement.
“Our biggest problem with the city is water and this is not going to fix the water problems but it will address some of the water problems,” said Hazard Mayor Donald “Happy” Mobelini. “Are we still going to have water problems? Yes, but at least it gives us a fighting chance.”
Officials said the extra funds will allow the city to apply for grant and work on replacing old lines, in addition to other actions it will allow the city to take.
“This will give us enough money to address a future with this water instead of just reacting,” said City Commissioner Susan Brotherton. “If we keep going like this, (the water system is) going to be destroyed.”
A document handed out during the meeting detailed some of those things which need to be updated or changed.
According to the document, the Hazard Water Plant was originally designed to serve only those in the city limits but has expanded to nearly all of Perry County. The document also said that the aging infrastructure of some water lines is leading to constant leaks, boil water advisories and fears of prolonged winter outages.
During the meeting, members of the public spoke, some “for” and some “against” the rate increase.
Brotherton said the ongoing issues with the water system affect the possibilities of growth for Hazard.
“Improving our water system will help draw businesses, draw people,” she said. “No one wants to come open a business if we don’t have good reliable water.”
Commissioners also said the funds from the increase in water rates will be used to hire more personnel to work on water issues more effectively, and will ultimately create a number of jobs in the community.
The importance of getting the system in shape, officials said, can’t be overestimated.
“This is the issue of our time in this area ...,” said City Commissioner Max Mitchell.
The document presented to those in attendance showed the minimum water rates of neighboring counties was compared to the new rates in Perry County. The City of Whitesburg’s water rates are $9.40 for those in the city limits and $20.00 for those outside them, while the Letcher County Water and Sewer District charges $27.50 for those outside city limits.
Jackson Municipal Water Works charges $18.52 for those within City limits while the Breathitt County Water district charges $29.09 for those outside city limits.
The Hindman Water District charges $19.14 for those in and out of city limits. Hyden Leslie County Water District charges $20.24 for those in city limits.
“We’re not trying to price gouge anyone in the city or the county,” Mobelini said. “Across the board it’s the same amount.”