OWASA calls for higher water rate


— The Orange Water and Sewer Authority is proposing a 9.75 percent rate increase for water customers in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area.

The OWASA board of directors will hold a public hearing on its draft budget May 28. The rate change would increase a monthly bill by $6.68 to $74.92 for a typical individually metered residence using 5,000 gallons a month, the agency said.

The proposed $18.7 million operating budget eliminates 10 positions and freezes eight vacancies, delays the next phase of odor elimination improvements at the Mason Farm Wastewater Treatment Plant and cuts recreation days at University Lake from four a week to two.

Big increases in the cost of chemicals used in water and wastewater treatment are driving up the budget. At the same time, the utility is seeing continued low water demand and reduced revenue from new development connections because of the slow economy. Projected water demand next year is 16 percent lower than in fiscal 2001, while the number of customer accounts has increased by 3,100 since then.

The May 28 public hearing will be part of an OWASA business meeting at 7 p.m. in Chapel Hill Town Hall, 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Chapel Hill. The meeting will be televised live on local cable channel 18.

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