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Ironton water rates to increase in March

Starting in March, Ironton residents will see a 16-cent increase in their water usage rates.

Ironton City Council voted 6-1 in favor of the 3 percent increase after a presentation by Mayor Rich Blankenship at Thursday’s meeting.

Currently, residents pay $5.30 per thousand gallons of water, Blankenship said, and the last increase in rates was for 30 cents in 2011.

Blankenship compared for council the price of a gallon of city water to gallons of water found in a local store, gas and milk.

Milk was about $4 a gallon and gas is $3.77 per gallon at a city gas station, Blankenship said.

“If you go in and buy a gallon of water it’s $1.90,” he said. “…If you buy 1,000 gallons of (bottled) water, you’re going to pay $1,900. If you buy 1,000 gallons from the City of Ironton, it’s going to cost you $5.30.”

Right now, the cost for one gallon of water is $0.0053. Last year, the city treated 560 million gallons of water.

With the 3 percent increase, residents will pay $5.46 per 1,000 gallons. The ordinance also sets 3 percent increases in January 2014, making the rate $5.63 per thousand gallons and in January 2015, setting it at $5.79.

Blankenship cited rising costs at the water treatment plant as a reason for raising the water usage rates.

“From 2011 to 2012, at the water treatment plant, the chemical costs increased 20.22 percent,” he said. “Electricity costs increased 23.88 percent.”

The mayor also said those expenses don’t take into account the four employees at the water treatment plant and the five in distribution but the rate increase would not go towards salaries.

“This doesn’t even go to their salaries or benefits or anything,” Blankenship said. “This is just to draw the water from the river to get it up on the hill so you can drink it, or take a bath or cook or whatever you may do.”

“What would that translate to in increased revenue for the city?” councilman Philip Heald asked.

City finance director Kristen Martin said the increase would add about $36,000 to the water fund.

“I don’t think 16 cents per thousand gallons is asking too much,” Blankenship said.

Councilman Dave Frazer was the only member who voted against the increase.

After the meeting, he said, “When I ran (for council), I ran on the campaign that I wouldn’t raise any of the rates.”

In response to Frazer’s opposition to the increase, Blankenship said, “What other alternatives has Mr. Frazer submitted to council?”

Council also passed an ordinance to extend the city’s contract for health insurance coverage for its full-time employees through MedBen at a 3 percent increase.

This has been the projected increase the city is using in budget drafts.

Resolutions for the city to apply for Natureworks grant through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, enter into a contract with the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization and authorize interim financing from the Ironton Port Authority to fund a portion of riverfront development while grant funds are pending also passed.