Fee increase will fix broken, money-wasting pipes

Cornelius’s utility bills will see a roughly 7.5 percent increase beginning July 1, as approved unanimously by the city council Monday, June 2.

The increase is meant to fix water pipes that leak 25 percent of their water annually. The national standard for highest acceptable leakage is between 8 and 10 percent.

This leakage costs the city approximately $250,000 each year in wasted water because the city must pay for it, even if residents can’t use it.

The proposed utility-rate increase took up most of council’s discussion time before it unanimously approved the city’s entire 2014-15 fiscal year budget.

City Manager Rob Drake pointed out that replacing the pipes is an investment that will last today’s children through retirement age.

It will take at least five years to replace the three miles of current pipes. The project will cost a half million dollars per year.

The current steel pipes put in the city in the 1940s will be replaced with iron pipes that will last approximately 70 years.

“If it helps fix our system then I think it’s well worth it,” said Cornelius resident Jim McMahan in the public hearing portion of the meeting.

While Mayor Jef Dalin agreed that the new pipes were necessary, he pointed out that it could be challenging for some Cornelius residents whose income is close to the per capita median of $17,000.

“If you’re on a tight budget, you’re going to know what’s happening,” he said.

The council also approved a $2 monthly utility-user fee which will generate $100,000 annually to support general services, including (this year) a 13th police officer. That fee will also show up on residents’ monthly utility bills.

Contract Publishing

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