Botetourt residents voice concerns over water rate hike

By Brie Jackson - Weekend Anchor / Reporter

ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - People in Botetourt County said their water rates have nearly doubled after Central Water Company increased rates earlier this year.

On Wednesday, the State Corporation Commission (SCC) held a public hearing to examine concerns from customers about the price hike to determine whether it is fair.

Bill Sinclair and Ashley Plantation residents are among the nearly 400 customers who saw their water rate increase this year.

"Where most people had a cost between $20-$25, that was the standard. Now if you had a couple of thousand gallons of water you were up in the $35-$40 range," said Sinclair.

Central Water Company President Stephen Rossi said the hike is needed in order to keep up with development and customers needs. He said the higher cost comes after more than a decade of not seeing the rates change.

"Rate increases are something that absolutely have to be done," said Rossi. "We have not kept the rates where they should be for the growth in the future."

During Wednesday's public meeting, SCC collected input from the water company and its customers. Officials said they'll examine factors such as the size of the rate hike and potential costs for infrastructure improvements. While both sides said a price increase may be needed, customers said the current adjustment is too much.

"We are just looking for an increase that is reasonable, not where they are trying to make up for lost time," said Sinclair,

"There probably should have been some rate increase in the past, but there hasn't been in 12 years," said Rossi. "What happens is that at that point, the financial levels of the company become not supportive so you have to take a leap to get them corrected."

After hearing from both sides of the water rate debate, state officials will decide whether the current rate is fair and should stay as it is or if customers should get a refund for being charged more than SCC officials deemed necessary.

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