Customers of the Upper Moreland-Hatboro Joint Sewer Authority will be charged a "service fee" - regardless of use - for each quarter beginning Feb. 1.
Residential and public ratepayers will have a $15 service charge imposed, while a $20 fee will be applied for commercial/industrial users, according to a newsletter mailed to the Authority's more than 10,000 customers. The service charge would also apply to "every unit of a multi-unit building" and would be imposed whether or not the customer's discharge of wastewater volume changed.
In the newsletter, the Authority reasoned that because of "fixed" costs involved in operating the wastewater treatment plant, it was necessary to apply the service charge.
"Currently, billings for sewer service are based primarily on the volume of wastewater which each ratepayer discharges to the Authority's wastewater treatment plant. Hence, the billings for sewer service are largely 'variable' in nature," the newsletter reads. "The wastewater treatment plant runs 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, is subject to extensive regulatory oversight, and must be staffed and powered accordingly. These costs are fixed in nature and are not dependent on the variable volumes of wastewater which flow to the plant."
Other expenses include upkeep of the treatment plant and 125 miles of sewer lines, according to the newsletter.
Part of the reason for the service charge was to "partly offset" the need to up sewer rental rates funding next year.
The service charge comes on the heels of an April 1 rate increase from $4.80 per 1,000 gallons to $5.75 per 1,000 gallons. Fixture rates were raised by 20 percent and commercial customers rates jumped from $6 per 1,000 gallons to $7.20 per 1,000 gallons. Those amounts represent a 20-percent cost increase.