ASHLAND -- Ashland City Council is considering three ways to fund repairs to its aging water and sewer lines. 

According to Mayor Matt Miller, city leadership has discussed adding a surcharge to the water bill, increasing water rates and refinancing debt to free up money.

Legislation pertaining to debt refinancing could come before council as soon as March 16. Other legislation would follow before residents see any increases to their water bills. 

"Underground where we don't see them, there are miles and miles of water lines and sewer lines that are getting older and older and deteriorating every year just like the city streets that we see," Mayor Matt Miller said. "And we have to do something to make sure we're upgrading those parts of our infrastructure so our community can continue to grow and thrive." 

Many of the city's waterlines are decades old. Some are more than 40 years old, the mayor said. 

Mayor Miller

Mayor Matt Miller (March 2, 2021) 

Discussions on how to address the city's aging underground infrastructure began earlier this year. Mayor Miller first brought the matter to a February council meeting. 

"It will inevitably come. I don't want anyone to be caught off-guard," he said about potential water rate increases. 

The city of Ashland has not increased its water rate in more than a decade. 

"None of us want to pay a higher water bill, however, the costs of operating the water department, staffing the water department, chemicals for the water department, the entire operation in and of itself have continue to increase every year," Miller said. "We're getting to the point where quite honestly we aren't even covering the cost of the operation with our existing water rate." 

Additionally, city leaders may propose that city council add a $3 surcharge to fund capital improvements for water infrastructure. The city has a similar surcharge already funding capital improvements for the sewer infrastructure. 

"That's not a done deal but I don't want anyone to be surprised as we come to a decision," Miller said. 

Other news from Tuesday's meeting: 

- Ashland City Council authorized the purchase of a Toyota Tacoma pickup truck for the Ashland Police Division. 

The total price of the purchase is not to exceed $24,971. A portion of that cost will be covered by trading in three confiscated vehicles. 

- The city of Ashland has selected Volunteer Energy as its supplier for the city's natural gas governmental aggregation program. 

City residents will still be the provider for the utility and will continue to handle monthly billing and service. 

All Ashland residents and small businesses are automatically enrolled in the program and do not need to take any action to receive the negotiated rate, which was determined by Trebel Energy.

The variable rate of NYMEX plus 0.1619 per Ccf will be in effect from April 2021 through September 2022. 

More information will be sent out March 4 to all impacted residents and businesses.

If a resident or small business would not want to receive the negotiated rate, then they must opt-out by March 25. This can be done by returning a form in the March 4 mailing or by calling 800-977-8374. 

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