The city of Marble Falls has responded to a petition opposing a 50-percent water rate increase for customers living outside of the city limits. Residents of Hamilton Creek Ranchettes filed the petition Feb. 4 with the Texas Public Utility Commission, calling the rates unfair and asking the utility to suspend implementation until it can make an official ruling. Increased rates, which were approved by the city in November 2020, are due to go into effect this month.
The city’s response came March 4 in a news release explaining its position.
“Out-of-city water rates are an industry standard and in effect in surrounding central Texas communities including Fredericksburg, Granite Shoals, Horseshoe Bay, Johnson City and Burnet,” reads the statement sent to local media outlets.
Petition representative Tim O’Malley said the group recently met with city representatives to discuss the issue. They were unable to reach a compromise. The city then announced it would continue with the rate increase.
Previously, out-of-city residents with a one-inch water meter paid a $35.94 minimum charge and volume rate of $4.78 per 1,000 gallons of water. The new rates will increase the minimum charge to $55.53 and the volume rate to $7.39 per 1,000 gallons.
“That’s actually two, 50-percent increases: one for the minimum, which gets us no water, and another for the water we use,” O’Malley said.
The city has exclusive rights to provide water and sewage services to customers within a specific geographic location. In 2011, the Lower Colorado River Authority transferred the Hamilton Creek Water System to the city, making it responsible for providing potable water services to those customers.
“We didn’t ask for the city to provide us water,” O’Malley said. “We were functioning on our own.”
The increased rates will pay for costs associated with serving out-of-city customers, estimated to be approximately 62 percent more than for customers inside the city limits, according to the city’s news release. Petition signers believe the rates are being increased to fund upcoming water and wastewater facility improvement projects.
Marble Falls is in the process of building a new wastewater plant, which will cost $15.5 million in the initial stage.