As you know, our water rates have risen substantially over the last two years. We wanted to take a moment and explain why. There are numerous reasons for these rate increases including the necessity to adhere to state treatment, testing, and water quality standards; legal fees, survey fees, supply costs, and more costly pipe line repairs. The Directors expect some of these costs to remain fairly stable (e.g. supplies and labor for daily operations), and while legal fees may increase modestly, survey fees should decrease. The most significant increase is expected in pipe line repair costs. The increase in this unavoidable expense is largely for two reasons:
- The increasing need to hire outside contractors for repairs
- The increased frequency of main line leaks.
Historically, the labor for MWC’s pipeline and system repairs has been accomplished using volunteers, usually company directors, in combination with a minimal amount of paid labor. Fritz Thornburg has provided excavation work and provides his expertise, backhoe and operator time at a much-reduced rate. We’re certainly lucky to have him.
This arrangement is gradually changing, however. As directors and community volunteers age, repairs will increasingly need to be made by outside contractors. With this change, members will at some point in the near future no longer benefit from the savings that this mostly FREE labor has provided. The increased repair costs may be substantial and will add to water rates.
An illustrative example of the affect of increased repair costs would be the repair made recently to the mainline on Pleasant Valley Road. In order to access the damaged pipe, an excavation 14′ deep 12′ long and 8′ wide was required in addition to side bank shoring and the continual pumping of 14,600 gallons of water from the hole per day. Volunteers provided 100+ labor-hours and Fritz provided 70 hours of backhoe time.
How does it breakdown?
This comparison illustrates an expected repair cost increase of 300%! We all need to keep in mind too that this was only one leak and although it was a major repair, we typically have multiple leaks annually.
Another thing we ask you to consider is that the volunteers, directors and officers of MWC are also members and subject to these same rate increases in addition to the cost of lost income from their regular work schedules.
By giving us almost 40 hours of his time/labor at no charge Fritz voluntarily gave up $3336.25 while saving each residential user approximately $1.48/mo or $17.75/yr. Likewise, other volunteers provided 100 hours of free labor, foregoing $3000 in addition to lost wages ($ they could have made on their regular jobs), and saving each residential user $1.32/mo or $15.96/yr; a total savings to members of $2.81/mo or $33.71/yr .
What’s all of this mean?
Well, first and foremost, it means we have some awesome members who have done, and continue to do, so much for us all. We owe them all a debt of gratitude, especially Fritz Thornburg. THANK YOU!
Second, the MWC will continue to operate and maintain your water system so that sweet, quality water keeps on coming through all of our taps.
The time is fast approaching, however when the membership will likely need to pay the non-volunteer (i.e contractor or market) rates for repairs.
Why won’t the grant(s) take care of this?
While things have been moving much slower than we anticipated, we are still on track to get our planning grant, which is a pre-requisite to our construction grant. With these grants we will be able to replace our aging water infrastructure and our hope is to do so within the same time frame that the work on Hot Springs Road is done. That is several years away, though, and so we’ll need to keep things running until then. Once our new pipes are in, we should see substantial savings in terms of repair costs BUT whatever repair costs we do incur will be at the standard, market rate.
We hope this explains the how’s, what’s and why’s and we encourage your feedback!
You can reply to this blog post, email us at email@example.com or attend one of our Board meetings, which are the 3rdSaturdays of the month.
Note: If you’d like to attend a board meeting, please RSVP via email.
Thank you in advance for your input, understanding and support. We look forward to hearing from you!
One thought on “Markleeville Water Company’s Rising Cost of Repairs”
I would also like to give a great big thank you to the efforts of Steve Martin, who DONATES hundreds of hours to the water company. Thank you Steve, for all that you do.