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SW Water Authority raises rates

Rural Southwest Water Authority customers will have to shell out a little more for service beginning next year.

On the strength of a 13-2 vote at its regular monthly meeting in Dickinson, the SWA Board decided Monday to raise its rural minimum rate from $43.35 to $43.95 as part of an overall approved 2013 budget of just more than $15.3 million.

Another added cost will require an additional $100 for a new hookup fee, a rate than had remained unchanged since 1991.

The SWA is the main water supplier for rural customers, municipalities and commercial use in southwest North Dakota.

The spending outline, dubbed the "Increase Capital Repayment and Treatment" plan, was one of two proposed budgets that were on the table Monday. The budget that was not adopted also called for rate increases, though on a slightly smaller scale.

Brian Roth, representing Grant County, and Dave Juntunen of Slope County cast the only dissenting votes.

"I was in favor of the other budget because it raised rates a little less," Juntunen said after the meeting. "I'm not generally one who likes to tax and spend. People always notice when their rates are increased, although this increase isn't as big as they have been in the past."

For a new rural water customer, the basic hookup fee will move from $750 to $850 for 2013, an increase that SWA CEO and Manager Mary Massad said was probably long overdue. The SWA rural minimum rate was raised $1.25 from 2011 to 2012.

"If you look at what others in the state pay, we're more than competitive," Massad said. "We offer cheap water and that's something that we will continue to do, but our costs are rising, like everyone else's."

Although the rate will increase to $59.59 for 2013, rural customers that used 6,000 gallons of water per month this year were charged $58.79, one of the cheapest rates in North Dakota. By comparison, rural customers with the South Central Regional Water District to the east paid $76 for 6,000 gallons of water in 2012.

As part of its 2013 budget, the SWA will also add 13 employees -- to reach a total of 47 -- and will implement 3 percent cost of living and merit pay increases. The North Dakota State Water Commission still needs to approve the budget, something that will likely happen at its December meeting, said Massad.

Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
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