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Water-Rate Hike on the Horizon for Sturgeon Bay

For the first time in 10 years, Sturgeon Bay Utilities (SBU) is seeking to increase the water rate of its customers.

SBU filed an application with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) for the increase, which SBU stated in its notice to all customers is necessary due to a “23.7% increase in gross plant investment and a 32.04% increase in operating expenses since the last water-rate case was completed in 2013.”

SBU requested a total increase in annual water revenues of $753,635, which it said will result in an estimated overall rate increase of 35.31% over the water utility’s present revenues.

If PSC grants the request – it held a virtual public hearing on the increase Tuesday before administrative law judge Michael Newmark – SBU said the water bill for an average residential customer will increase 34.12% per month. Based on a 3/4-inch meter and residential usage of 3,000 gallons per month, that’s an increase from $24.12 to $32.25, including the public fire-protection charge.

“The percentage sounds a lot bigger than the actual absolute dollar amount is,” SBU general manager Jim Stawicki said during the hearing. 

When Newmark asked why the city didn’t consider seeking a two-step increase in water rates, rather than the one-time hike of more than 30%, Stawicki said SBU has had other sources of revenue that have come in during the past 10 years. He said SBU has maintained a dredge spoil facility that in the past brought in an extra $200,000 in annual revenue, but has been “rather dry for the last couple of years.”

Scott Nyholm, who spoke during the public-comment period of the hearing, called increasing water rates by more than 30% in one year “fiscally irresponsible” and said the increase’s impact would be more than a few dollars a month for commercial customers who use tens of thousands of gallons of water.

The PSC also accepted written comments through Aug. 31 on the rate increase sought by SBU.

Stawicki said the increase would take effect in the first full month following the PSC’s approval.

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