UPDATE: Madison Water Utility Board wants gradual rate increase

Updated: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 --- 10:25 p.m.

Madison residents have come to expect quality water out of their faucets and hoses.

"We had a lot of input from the public over the last several years in iron and manganese in their water," said Madeline Gotkowitz, the president of the Water Utility Board.

Now, that quality may come at a steeper price, as Madison Water Utility looks to rebuild much of the city's water infrastructure.

"We're replacing old water mains, a main that goes back in some cases to the 1880s," said Tom Heikkinen, the general manager of MWU. "And we're also providing for the future and building a new well on the southeast side, and replacing old water towers"

MWU is asking its customer to pay about $4 more a month, or $50 more a year. It's a 22 percent increase.

At Tuesday's monthly Water Utility Board meeting, members discussed more gradual alternatives.

"It's a big percentage increase all at once, and it would be nice to able to ease that in more slowly over time," Gotkowitz said.

But MWU says the concern with waiting is it could postpone a number of those much-needed improvement projects.

"That means we're going to be affecting levels of service, whether it's going to be more water main breaks, more instances of rusty-colored water that happens every now and then," Heikkinen said.

At Tuesday's meeting, the board decided to wait to discuss anything further until it has more information.

The public is also asked to weigh in in the meantime.

Posted Monday, August 26, 2013 --- 4:42 p.m.

The Madison Water Utility will present its 2014 operating budget plan to the Water Utility Board at a meeting Tuesday night.

Part of the budget plan includes a proposed rate increase of 22% to become effective in the second half of 2014.

The rate increase would mean the average residential customer's bill would go up by about $4.05 per month. It must be approved by the Public Service Commission,

The Utility says that even with the increase, Madison's water rate would still be below the statewide average and well within the affordability guidelines set by the Water Utility Board.

The Utility says it is exploring the rate increase as part of their commitment to renew and rebuild much of the city's water infrastructure. The agency is working to replace some 400 miles of pipe over the next 40 years at a cost of more than $7.5 million per year.

It will be more than three years since water rates have gone up for Madison Water Utility customers. The Water Utility had planned to file for a 12% increase in 2013, but officials say it was not needed because of high water use during last summer's drought.

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