2013 0604 water district
File photo: Peter Blasl

Riverhead Water District customers will be paying higher rates and fees effective Aug. 1, under a new rate schedule adopted by the Riverhead Town Board at last week’s meeting.

The rate hike is implemented in two ways.

First, customers will get less water for the quarterly minimum charge they pay. The quarterly minimum charge will not change for customers with 3/4-inch, 5/8-inch and 1-inch meters— which covers all residential customers. But how much water that quarterly charge buys will decrease, from 5,000 to 4,000 gallons for 3/4-inch and 5/8-inch customers and from 12,000 to 9,000 gallons for 1-inch customers.

Second, the rate per thousand gallons on water consumed above the quarterly allotment will increase 15 percent, from $1.50 to $1.73 per thousand gallons.

Commercial customers, whose meters range in size from 2 inches to 10 inches, pay a monthly — not quarterly — minimum service charge, which is increasing about 20 percent. The monthly consumption covered by the minimum monthly service charge is also being reduced and the rate per thousand gallons consumed over the monthly allotment is also going up 15 percent to $1.73 per thousand gallons.

For example, the 375 customers with 2-inch meters will have their monthly service charge increased from $12.97 to $15.42 (18.9 percent) while the volume of water that fee buys them would be reduced from 10,000 to 8,000 gallons. Among the district’s largest customers, those with 8-inch meters would see their monthly minimum service charge rise 20.8 percent from $86.63 to $104.67 while the gallonage covered by the fee would fall from 80,000 to 64,000.

Various fees charged by the district — scheduled turn on/off fees, reconnect and disconnect fees, new service line fees, meter tests, and the like — are also rising.

The water district is looking to move away from relying on rent payments from wireless companies — which use the district’s tall water towers to mount cell antennas — to help fund the cost of operations. Without that supplemental income, water rates and fees collected fall $300,000 short annually of paying for the costs of operating the district, Superintendent Mark Conklin said.

“Carrier money shouldn’t be part of the operating budget,” Conklin said. The district has had average annual rental income of more than $650,000 from those rentals during the past five years, according to data the superintendent presented at the meeting. He plans to save rental revenues for capital improvements.

The district needs to invest another $10 million in infrastructure — new wells, pumps and storage facilities — to keep up with demand during the peak summer months, according to officials and the district’s consulting engineering firm, H2M.

“The district currently is at or near its supply capacity limitations during the early morning hours of the summer months when user demand is at its highest,” according to H2M. “This high demand is attributed to irrigation usage across the district.”

H2M is proposing the following improvements:

  • a new low-pressure zone water storage tank at Plant 15 on Tuthill’s Lane in Jamesport – estimated cost $3.75 million.
  • a new interconnection with the Suffolk County Water Authority at the Brookhaven Town line and a new water transmission main on Route 25 in Calverton to connect to existing district facilities at the intersection of Wading River-Manorville Road – estimated cost $700,000.
  • a new high-pressure zone ground storage facility with booster pump station within the limits of an existing “high-pressure zone which includes Calverton, Wading River and Baiting Hollow – estimated cost $4.35 million
  • a new 500 gallon-per-minute supply well at Plant 17 on Northville Turnpike in Riverhead – estimated cost $950,000.

Town officials would have to authorize more borrowing to accomplish the capital improvements.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.