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Manassas Park Water and Sewer Bill Set to Increase

The average resident could see their water and sewer bill increase by more than $30 a month, every month.

An inefficient water and sewage system and years of operating the city’s enterprise fund in the red are two of the reasons why Manassas Park residents will likely see their water bills increase by more than $30 each month.

Residential and commercial customers could see the increase as soon as the June billing period if Manassas Park City Council approves the hike in May, City manager James “Jim” Zumwalt said Wednesday.

City officials said the increase is necessary and outlined the reasons for it in a video presentation to City Council on Tuesday night. The video will air on the city’s public access channel at 10 a.m. and at 7 p.m. every day until Tuesday so residents can be educated about the utility system.

Manassas Park’s enterprise fund is run like a business and is separate from the city’s general fund which pays for things like schools, police and the city’s debt service.

The enterprise was able to operate at a deficit for years because it relied on the million of dollars in one-time tap fees generated by new construction in the city, Zumwalt said.

When the recession set in new construction ceased and those tap fees dried up, he said.

“We now have to increase our rates. You can’t keep operating an essential service in the red,” Zumwalt said.

There was a small rate increase in 2008—the first one in 13 years—but it wasn’t enough, city officials said.

If the rates hadn’t increase in 2008, the city would have been in a far worst situation, Zumwalt said.

If the rate increase is approved by council, then  commercial users can expect to see their rates increase by 32 percent each month.

The average residential customer will see an increase of a little more than a dollar a day in their water and sewage bills, city public works director James “Jay” Johnson said.

Residential customers who don’t use much water will see a smaller increase, Johnson said.

A town hall meeting on the rate adjustment is scheduled for Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the community room at the

Residents can come, ask questions and voice their concerns. If residents bring their current water bills to the meeting, public works staff will calculate each customer's projected increase.

City officials said the rate increase is also needed to pay for the city’s utilities bonds which are due to increase in Fiscal Year 2016 by some $1 million.

The city’s has utility bond payments because it borrowed money to buy water rights from Manassas City and the Service Authority of Prince William County, Zumwalt said.

The city also has to chip on the Upper Occoquan Service Authority’s (UOSA) bonds.

Manassas Park owns a little more than 5 percent of UOSA. The rest is owned by Manassas, Prince William and Fairfax Counties.

Manassas Park has to pay UOSA some $1.5 million this year for its bonds, Zumwalt said.

That amount will increase by $100,000 every year until it reaches a plateau, he said.

City staff said the inefficiencies in the city’s aging water and sewage systems also attribute to the need for a rate increase.

The city is losing some of the water it buys from Manassas City and Service Authority of Prince William County which purchases its water from Fairfax County.

In the last year, public works crews, which are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, fixed some of the leaks, Zumwalt said.

“The dollar impact of that improvement is in the order of $150,000 a year,” Zumwalt said. “It remains a very real problem but it’s only half as bad as it was when Jay (Johnson) started.”

The public works department has to prevent too much rain water from coming through the sewage pipes which flow to UOSA, a sewage treatment facility.  

The more sewage that UOSA has to deal with, the higher the sewage bills, Zumwalt said.

The city is interested in repairing and maintaining the sewage system so that residents aren’t charged more, city officials said.

Vasquez2 April 20, 2012 at 12:06 AM
Marley, I"m curious....I've been drinking water from the tap here for quite a while (albeit thru a PUR filter, but I'd do that anywhere). I've seen no evidence that the water is unsafe. It's the same water that PW County drinks, which comes from a treatment plant were FFX gets it's water, it's the same water Manassas drinks. As someone with autoimmune disease (MS), I'm VERY careful of things like drinking water and probably look more closely at the annual Water Reports than most. Please elaborate on your accusations so I can take up the issue with the appropriate City personnel. If our water is "unsafe", as you put it, I need to know. Thanks so much for your help. Also...just out of curiousity...who are these "good ole boys" of whom you speak?
Vasquez2 April 20, 2012 at 12:33 AM
We belong to an "exclusive" community, if you will. Any expenses have to be divided among a rather small "membership" (the residents). Infrastructures don't last forever! It's a 50+ year old "plumbing system" thats bedded on shale. Guess what..it's sprung a few leaks over the years. It will only get worse...and more expensive...unless we fix it. Were funds mismanaged? No doubt. We can argue the point at the next meeting but, at the end of the day, we still have a problem that needs to be fixed. The fact that Public Works has managed to cut the amount of water loss in half speaks well for the dept. and it's leadership. We needed that "pro-activity" a few years ago, it seems. We can either impede them by making sure they have nothing to work with (in terms of funding) OR we can give them the tools they need and tell them to go at it! There's plenty of time to figure out where or at whom to point fingers but the urgency falls on the problem itself. I don't like the idea of a higher rate either but that doesn't change anything. I DO want the problem fixed as quickly as possible and at this point, I have a lot more faith in Public Works than I do City Hall.
MPSince03 April 20, 2012 at 01:37 PM
You may have the extra money to pay the higher rate, many do not. We have residents on fixed incomes, commissioned employees that are not making what the used to based on the economy, unemployed workers, underemployed workers, fully employed workers that have not received a salary increase in several years. The list goes on. We are already paying exorbitantly more for water and sewage than anywhere else in the area. Short sales and foreclosures continue to plague this community at a higher rate than the surrrounding area (people don't have an extra $30 a month to help fix this). There are plenty of homeowners that put off repairs because they don't have the disposable income to make them. The governing body needs to figure out a way to address this without raising the rates on the residents and small business owners. The water and sewage bills need to be reduced from today's exorbitant rates, not further escalated so we have pay 3 and 4 times what our neighboring cities and counties pay.
Kathy S. May 27, 2012 at 03:59 PM
this is outrages. The water is horrible. It smells like a swimming pool.
WR July 02, 2013 at 03:26 PM
I said this on another article but I think it's worth restating: If Manassas Park cannot find a way to provide cheaper water, they need to consider getting out of the water business, much like Fairfax City did. All residents and the city benefited from the deal Fairfax City made with Fairfax Water, much like Manassas Park residents would benefit from an arrangement between it and another local water service provider.

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