Marietta water, sewer rates rising

Marietta’s water and sewer rates are set to increase effective Jan. 1, according to information released during a joint session of city council’s finance and water, sewer and sanitation committees Tuesday.

“The increases are driven by both operations and debt components. And the rates are designed so the city does not make money, but only breaks even with the increases,” assistant safety-service director Bill Dauber explained.

Marietta residential water customers who live within the city limits will be paying 83 cents more per 100 cubic feet of water usage beginning Jan. 1, while customers outside the city limits will be billed an additional $1.25 per 100 cubic feet, according to Dauber’s presentation.

The new water rates translate to a typical bi-monthly bill of $50.90 for in-city customers who use 1,000 cubic feet of water per month, and $76.40 every two months for customers living outside the city and using the same amount of water monthly.

The new sewer rate is the same for customers living inside or outside the city limits. Beginning Jan. 1 they will pay an extra 72 cents per 100 cubic feet of usage above the current rate of $3.82 per 100 cubic feet.

With typical usage of 1,000 cubic feet per month, plus an administrative fee, city sewer customers can expect to pay $60.06 on their bi-monthly bills, compared to the current bi-monthly rate of $52.30 for the same usage.

Water rates are set by recommendation from the city administration and do not require council action to become effective, but legislation must be adopted by council before the new sewer rate can go into effect.

That ordinance is currently scheduled for a vote during Thursday’s regular council meeting at 7:30 p.m. in the community building at Lookout Park.

Also on Tuesday the finance committee received quarterly reports from the Marietta-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau and Main Street Marietta.

The CVB receives 50 percent of the city’s hotel/motel lodging tax for its operations.

“The local shale oil and gas play continues to impact the city’s lodging tax, but we’re also seeing a slow increase in leisure travel since the recession (in 2008 and 2009),” said CVB executive director Jeri Knowlton.

She reported the bureau expects to have received a total of $400,000 through the lodging tax by the end of this year, and the CVB is expecting to receive $463,360 from the tax in 2014.

Added to other public and private revenue, Knowlton said the CVB’s projected total income for the 2014 budget is $525,860, compared to this year’s total of $465,616.

“We have added a line item in next year’s budget for Main Street Marietta,” she said. “The CVB provided close to $10,000 for Main Street Marietta this year, and we intend to increase that to $25,000 in 2014.”

Knowlton said the bureau is also working to develop a closer relationship with the western areas of the county and has picked up a half-dozen new members in the Belpre area.

She said the CVB has decided to close the tourist information center in the Kroger plaza near the intersection of Pike and Acme streets.

“One of our board members recommended that anyone looking to develop a tourism-related business could use that location as a business incubator site,” Knowlton said, adding that the CVB could assist to help the business grow, then relocate to a more permanent site.

She also noted the CVB’s new location on Greene Street was a good move.

“We’re seeing a very noticeable increase in foot traffic, compared to our previous location on Putnam Street,” Knowlton said.

Jean G. Farmer, director of Main Street Marietta, reported the organization is continuing to promote and enhance the downtown area. She noted the group, formerly ReStore Marietta, became officially known as Main Street Marietta in July of this year.

“Main Street is the revitalization organization for downtown Marietta, and we continue to bring people together, organizing volunteers and fundraising,” she said. “Our current funding includes $17,692 from partnerships with area businesses, which is more than halfway to our funding goal.”

Other funding includes a one-time grant from the Marietta Community Foundation to cover Heritage Ohio fees of $4,000 for 2014. Heritage Ohio is the umbrella organization that provides training and support for the Main Street program.

City council has earmarked $15,000 for Main Street Marietta from the 2014 Community Development Block Grant entitlement, and Farmer said the organization has requested a total of $10,000 from Washington County to help cover administrative costs and help fund a proposed building facade improvement grant program for downtown businesses.