Water rates might jump 50% in Harlingen

dfwnewsa | February 27, 2024 | 0 | East Texas News , South Texas News

Water rates might jump 50% in Harlingen

HARLINGEN — Utility customers’ water rates might jump about 50% during the next five years to help fund a $130 million sewer system overhaul.

Now, city commissioners are considering proposed water and sewer rate hikes that could boost average monthly bills for customers using 3,000 gallons on 5/8-inch meters from the current $30.55 to as much as $63.52 by 2028.

As customers use more water, rates would climb.

Tim Skoglund, general manager of the city’s WaterWorks System, and the agency’s consultants are set to propose a rate plan during the commission’s next meeting, Commissioner Daniel Lopez said Tuesday.

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At City Hall, City Manager Gabriel Gonzalez said commissioners might be setting the new rates next month before implementing them later this year.

Earlier this week, Willdan consulting proposed four rate plans, basing rate hikes, in part, on customers’ monthly water usage in the city whose current water rates rank as the third-lowest in the Rio Grande Valley, behind Edinburg and Mission.

“Our rates are among the lowest in the Rio Grande Valley and we are determined to keep it that way,” Mayor Norma Sepulveda said in a statement Tuesday.

Sepulveda said officials are aiming to set a “critical balance between advancing necessary capital improvements and maintaining affordable rates for our community.”

“Recognizing the importance of protecting our most vulnerable populations, I have called for the development of an income-sensitive rate structure,” she said. “We aim to have this critical information in hand before our next commission meeting.”

Before setting rates, officials want residents’ input into proposed hikes, Sepulveda said.

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“Before moving forward with any plan, we will engage in comprehensive community outreach to ensure all voices are heard and all data is considered,” she said. “Our goal is to improve our infrastructure responsibly and inclusively, without rushing into decisions. We’re dedicated to a future where our community enjoys high-quality services without financial strain.”

Harlingen Waterworks System office is pictured Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022, in Harlingen. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

Now, the city’s current minimum monthly water rate stands at $7.93 on a 5/8-inch meter, plus $1.65 for an additional 1,000 gallons, while the minimum sewer rate is set at $6.18 on a 5/8-inch meter, plus $3.66 for an additional 1,000 gallons, with average utility bills charging residents about $644 a year.

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Among the consultants’ four proposals, one option would boost minimum monthly bills for customers using 3,000 gallons on 5/8-inch meters from the current $30.55 to $51.23 by 2028 while other proposals would increase monthly charges as high as $63.52 by the end of the five-year period.

For years, Skoglund has been planning one of the city’s biggest projects aimed at overhauling the city’s aging sewer system to make room for future growth.

In November, he unveiled a $130 million project aimed at upgrading the sewer system in which pipes are overloading, spurring some sewage overflows.

The project includes the construction of a main “interceptor” pipeline while building a deeper lift station and installing gravity lines to eliminate old lift stations, he said.

To help fund the project, officials are requesting the Texas Water Development Board grant $24 million under the state’s Economically Distressed Areas Program.

While the Water Development Board granted WaterWorks a $10 million low-interest loan in September, the agency’s planning to apply for further funding, Skoglund said.

The post Water rates might jump 50% in Harlingen appeared first on MyRGV.com.

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