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MailTribune.com
  • Jacksonville fees for water, fire protection to increase

  • JACKSONVILLE — Base water rates are projected to go up $12 per month after nearly 20 years of no increase, and residents will also see a fire-protection surcharge increase of $1 per month starting in July.
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  • JACKSONVILLE — Base water rates are projected to go up $12 per month after nearly 20 years of no increase, and residents will also see a fire-protection surcharge increase of $1 per month starting in July.
    Mayor Paul Becker read a public notice of the fee hikes at the City Council meeting Tuesday. The $156 in annual increases will be formalized when the council adopts the 2014-15 budget at a later meeting.
    The base water rate for city residents will increase to $21.90 per month in the first change since 1995. City officials said the increase is needed to fund nearly $6 million in water-system updates pinpointed by a state-mandated water master plan.
    The highest priority for improvements, at a cost of $1.2 million, are upgrades in two pumping stations, emergency power supplies and water line replacement in several neighborhoods, said City Administrator Jeff Alvis.
    Following the increase, the average water bill will be $35.89 per month. That compared with $55 for the average water charge in all state municipalities, Alvis said.
    Currently $26 per month, the fire protection surcharge will increase $1 per month for the coming fiscal year and then $2 per month in each of the following two years. The increases will fund the addition of a full-time firefighter to maintain 24-hour staffing and to cover increasing costs. In 2013 the department responded to 611 calls, compared with 446 in 2012 and 425 in 2011.
    The new position is needed because the city can no longer utilize student interns who stayed at the station overnight without making public retirement payments, said Alvis.
    The City Council approved the new hire by a 6-1 vote in its May 6 meeting. The Budget Committee confirmed the rate increase when it met May 8.
    Tony Boom is a writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.
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