Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Newport water bills to rise

36 percent rate increase approved by state agency

By Travis Gettys
Enquirer contributor

The state agency that oversees public utilities approved a rate increase Monday that would raise quarterly water bills for Northern Kentucky Water District customers.

Newport residents will be hit especially hard, with an almost 40 percent increase.

The utility provider has 30 days to file paperwork with the Public Service Commission of the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet setting up a formal rate schedule, which commission spokesman Andrew Melnykovich said it is expected to do.

The Newport increase brings the city in line with the rate other customers in other municipalities pay on their quarterly water bill. The Newport increase is 36 percent, from $57.87 to $78.65.

Residents of other areas served by the water district will see their bills increase by 2.4 percent, from $76.82 to $78.65.

The rate is based on typical water use by residential customers, calculated at 18,000 gallons every three months.

A 1997 merger between water districts in Campbell and Kenton counties created the Northern Kentucky Water District, which serves about 71,000 customers in Boone, Campbell, Kenton and Pendleton counties.

The nonprofit utility expects its annual revenue to rise from $30.5 million to about $32 million once the rate hike goes into effect, possibly later this year.

A spokesman for the Northern Kentucky Water District was not available for comment.

The water district requested permission to raise its rates to offset costs associated with the purchase and operation of water systems in Newport and Bromley.

Bromley sold its water system for $1 to the Northern Kentucky Water District in 2002 to avoid a costly upgrade to comply with state and federal regulations.

The regional water district purchased Newport Water Works in 2001 for $17.1 million, and the city invested its profit from the sale into redevelopment projects.

Voters in 1999 rejected a plan to sell the Newport Water Works, but a change in state law allowed the city to sell the utility without voter approval.

One Newport resident said he's not happy about the rate increase, but it's unlikely to make much of an impact on his family's water use.

"When my son wants to play in the water, I might think twice," said Michael Maxwell.

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