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Water Bills To Go Up For 94 Percent Of Char-Meck Customers

The majority of Charlotte-Mecklenburg water customers will see their monthly bills rise under a new proposal from the utilities department. But nobody showed up to speak against the plan at the city council meeting last night. A year ago, hundreds of people were calling the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities Department irate over water bills they claimed were too high. Last night, none of those people came to offer their feedback on the final resolution of those original complaints. The utilities department has spent a year reviewing water rates. The recommended changes include a new flat fee of about $6 a month that would be added to every customer bill. "This additional fixed charge will be a big improvement in our stability," utilities director Barry Gullet told the Charlotte City Council. "The vast majority of our costs in operating our utility are actually fixed costs. But nearly all of our revenue, currently, is variable revenue. It's based on water and sewer sales." The new fee would mean higher water bills for about 94 percent of utilities customers. The other six percent are the largest water users in the system and they'd actually see their monthly bills drop by as much as $40 because of a change in how sewer rates would be charged. Gullet says those people have been paying for sewer services they aren't actually using. The changes make the system more equitable, says Gullet. But several city council members - including Michael Barnes - were alarmed. "A water bill for a regular Mecklenburg County family is going to go up, but a large consumer someone who's got a lot of grass to water, a lot of pools to fill, their water bills are going to go down. Did I read that wrong?" asked Barnes. "Because that is not what I intended to have happen." The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities Department hopes to get the city council on board with the new rate plan before a schedule council vote on February 28. Most of the changes would take effect in July 2011.