Beaver Lake residents to see $30 rate hike

After lengthy discussion revolving around ways to handle ongoing sewer rate issues at Beaver Lake, the Lycoming County Water and Sewer Authority voted 6-3 Wednesday to increase Beaver Lake’s rates to $161 per home per month and to $50 for unimproved lots in 2018.

The approved new rate is $30 more than Beaver Lake residents paid in 2017.

The vote was made separately before the authority members could take action on the 2018 budget. Christine Weigle, executive director of the authority, made a case for both sides of the coin — acknowledging those rates are “unreasonable” and also acknowledging the authority has bills to pay.

Weigle proposed a $141 monthly rate in the hopes of finding other sources of funding or seeking debt forgiveness. She said, while the debts inherited from the sewer system it took control of are not the authority’s fault, they’re not the fault of Beaver Lake residents either.

“A rate of $161 is not sustainable, and setting a rate of $161 doesn’t guarantee we’ll get that revenue,” she said. “We need to be careful about where we’re raising our rates, but we also need to pay our bills.”

In the end, three different motions were made. The first, to raise rates to $137 per month, and second, to accept Weigle’s proposal of $141 per month, both failed.

The third motion, to increase rates to $161 per month, passed 6-3. Voting yes were Don Konkle, Victor Marquardt, Michael Miller, Jan Ransdorf, Jim Carpenter and Michael Philbin. Voting no were Frank Forscha, Charles Hall and Paul Wentzler.

Miller said prior to the vote that the authority should not subsidize Beaver Lake’s rates. He also pointed out that, while Beaver Lake residents may have higher sewer rates than most in the county, they have lower municipal taxes than most, as well.

“We can’t value one customer over another,” he said. “The township needs to step up.”

To that end, the authority voted unanimously that Weigle formally request that Penn Township forgive the $5,000 debt payment due this month for 2017 and that she withhold the payment until Penn Township supervisors agree to meet with authority and county officials.

Two Beaver Lake residents, Ralph Bitler and Jeani Hellenthal, attended the meeting. Bitler explained that he bought property in 2008 for about $7,000 and now can’t get $3,000 for it because of sewer rates. He also claimed that multiple properties that should be hooked up to the authority’s system, and therefore paying the same rates, are not — some may even be dumping into the lake instead, he said.

“People are just going to dump” their properties and “take the loss,” Bitler said.

Hellenthal thanked Weigle for making a case for Beaver Lake residents.

“You nailed it,” she said. “We’re desperate up there.”

The only other rate increase approved was an 8 percent increase on consumption for Regional Water users, an increase from $8.80 per 1,000 gallons to $9.50. In other words, about $34 annually for a typical household using 4,000 gallons per month, Weigle said.

Rates for Armstrong Sewer, Limestone Water, Mifflin Sewer and Montoursville Regional Sewer will remain the same.

The next authority meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Jan. 3 at the administrative offices, 380 Old Cement Road, Montoursville.