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Lisbon water rates lower than many in county

LISBON — The village’s water rates are in the bottom third among municipal water customers in Columbiana County, according to a survey performed by the newspaper. Lisbon residents are currently charged $42.63 per month based on 4,500 gallons used, which is considered the monthly household average by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Of the nine municipal water sources operating in the county, Lisbon’s rate per 4,500 gallons per month (GPM) was the third lowest, behind Salem and East Liverpool. Columbiana’s 4,500 GPM was also cheaper than Lisbon’s but not when you include a monthly surcharge assessed by the city to make payments on loan used to pay for water plant improvements.

Lisbon’s Board of Public Affairs announced two weeks ago they intend to raise water rates for a second time this year. This is in addition to the automatic 3 percent increase that took affect Jan. 1, which resulted in some residents questioning how the village’s rate compared to other communities.

The newspaper decided to take a look at what other municipal water suppliers charge in-town customers per 4,500 GPM. The following is a list, from lowest to highest:

Salem, $18.31

East Liverpool, $37.80

Columbiana, $29.43, plus a $11 surcharge to pay off a construction loan

Lisbon, $42.63

East Palestine, $55.72

Washingtonville, $55.87.

Buckeye Water District, $56.32

Leetonia, $58.94

New Waterford, $65.75

Leetonia and Washingtonville purchase its water from Salem, so they pay the higher outside rate. These residents also are assessed additional fees by Leetonia and Washingtonville to cover distribution costs. The Buckeye Water District supplies water to Salineville, Wellsville and portions of Liverpool, Madison and St. Clair townships.

The size of the community can impact rates. Larger communities, like Salem, East Liverpool and Columbiana, have many more customers to spread operating costs among than smaller municipalities. This is called economy of scale, where a proportionate saving in costs is gained by an increased level of production, and it can result in lower water rates.

BPA Chairman Bill Hoover said their goal is to raise Lisbon’s rates to 1.7 percent of the village’s median household income, the threshold needed to qualify for the all-important state and federal grants. Unlike loans, grants do not have to be repaid, and that can make unaffordable projects affordable.

Lisbon’s rates are currently at 1.2 percent of median household income, and Hoover said once they get to 1.7 percent the village can qualify for grants to help fund much-needed system upgrades, including replacing old waterlines, some of which date back more than 80 years.

New Waterford Mayor Shane Patrone feels Lisbon’s pain, saying they were in the same situation, and they chose to enact a series of water hikes over several years to get them to the 1.7 percent median household income threshold, qualifying them for grants to help fund major improvements.

“That’s why we did it gradually, so our residents would not feel the shock all at once. But now we will qualify for grants, and without those grants a village our size cannot afford to undertake major projects,” he said.

Patrone predicted Lisbon will not be the last community to raise rates. Salem and Leetonia, for example, already have automatic annual increases scheduled to take affect in 2021. Many are facing expensive future upgrades.

“We’re all in the same situation,” he said. “We have waterlines that are 60 years old. Sometimes you have to be the bad guy, but it’s the right thing to do. By this time next year all our waterlines will be replaced, and we’ll have a new waterline to Crestview schools, which should make us a little money.”

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