Pittsburgh residents could see sewer bill increases

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After getting hit with a 5 percent hike this year, customers of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority could see their bills increase by another 13 percent in 2011.

PWSA executive director Michael Kenney proposed the increase Friday, but board members said they're a long way from including it in next year's budget.

"Obviously, it's preliminary," said state Rep. Dan Deasy, D-Westwood, the authority chairman, calling 13 percent "kind of high."

Mr. Deasy said the authority will work on cost-containment measures in the next month. Given the economic climate, he said, "the last thing we want to do is pass a rate hike."

City Councilman Patrick Dowd, an authority board member, also questioned the need for a 13 percent hike.

Mr. Dowd this week introduced legislation in council to terminate a rate stabilization agreement with Pennsylvania American Water, which serves the city's southern and western neighborhoods and charges higher rates than PWSA.

Under the agreement, designed to ensure all city residents pay the same water rates regardless of neighborhood, PWSA pays Pennsylvania-American about $2.2 million in subsidies annually. Saying PWSA needs the money, Mr. Dowd wants to terminate the agreement in 2012.

The PWSA board must pass a budget by Dec. 31.

A 13 percent increase would cost the average residential customer about $6 a month, authority spokeswoman Melissa Rubin said. She wasn't immediately able to say how much revenue the increase would generate for the authority, which has about 83,000 water customers.

This year, however, the authority imposed a 5 percent fee for an infrastructure improvement fund. Officials previously said that fee would generate about $4.5 million annually.

Joe Smydo: jsmydo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1548.


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