Customers who get water from Raleigh might pay a bit more as the city tries to update ailing pipes.
The Raleigh City Council this week gave preliminary approval to fee increases for water and stormwater management.
Customers who live in single-family homes would pay $1 more each month – $5 instead of the current $4 fee – for the city’s stormwater management program. Commercial customers would pay on average $14 more, said Benjamin Brown, a senior project engineer in the city’s public works department.
Even with an increase, the fee would be the lowest in the Triangle, according to city staff. Durham and Chapel Hill, for example, charge an average of $6 for stormwater management.
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Raleigh created a stormwater management program 12 years ago to maintain and expand the network of pipes that drain runoff from the 1,050 miles of city streets.
The city has never increased the stormwater management fee, Brown said. The fee hike would allow the program to grow and bring in $48 million that could be used to make system repairs and respond to emergencies.
“I think this is probably money well spent for the city,” Councilwoman Kay Crowder said.
Mayor Nancy McFarlane said she thinks stormwater drainage is probably the second-most pressing concern among residents, behind drivers who speed through neighborhoods.
The council’s preliminary approval also includes a 4 percent rate increase for city utilities. An average family using about 3,700 gallons of water would see a monthly increase of about $1.99. The average water bill city customers is about $50 per month, according to city data.
Residents have been more conscious about conserving water and installing high-efficiency plumbing fixtures, which has led to less water usage, said Public Utilities Director Robert Massengill. Last year, customers in Raleigh used the same amount of water they used in 2007, even while the population grew.
Water use isn’t expected to increase in Raleigh until 2019. So a fee increase is necessary to update infrastructure, Massengill said.
The proposed rates would also apply to Garner, Rolesville, Wake Forest, Knightdale, Wendell and Zebulon, which get water from Raleigh. In Knightdale, Wendell and Zebulon, the rate increase would be slightly lower – $1.25.
In the last five years, Raleigh has replaced about 20 miles of water and sewer pipes, and there are plans to spend $52 million to install 40 miles of new pipes.
The increased need for revenue, which is expected to continue each year by roughly 4 percent until 2020, wouldn’t put Raleigh near the top for water fees in North Carolina, Massengill said.
“We’re not the cheapest, and we’re not the most expensive,” Massengill said. “We’re right in the middle.”
Fee increases would be part of the city’s budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802; @ReporterCioffi