By Dan McDermott
STRASBURG, VA (May 13, 2020) – Water and sewer service will cost a few dollars more in Strasburg next year and starting in July, curbside trash pickup pricing will also increase.
The actual rates for water and sewer will stay the same but a new $3 monthly “administrative fee” will be tacked onto the water and the sewer charges for a total increase of $6 per month.
According to Town Manager Wyatt Pearson, Strasburg is gradually moving toward making the water and sewer utilities support themselves rather than lose money every year only to be subsidized with funds from savings and tap fees from new homes or potentially from the general fund.
Debt service has increased with the construction of a new water plant in 2013 and a new wastewater treatment facility in 2015. The plants were built to meet new state and federal regulations according to the town.
With the new fees, the water service should about break even and the waste water operation is expected to lose about $400,000 next year, according to Pearson.
The waste water plant costs about $3 million per year but fees only generate about $2.6 million.
Based on approximately 2,700 customers, math suggests that to be self sufficient, the “administrative fee” on the sewer bill would have to be about $15 per month. But that’s not happening yet.
The town’s total budget is between $13-$14 million, according to Pearson.
Like many smaller utilities in Virginia, Strasburg’s water is not cheap.
According to the University of North Carolina School of Government’s Virginia Water and Wastewater Rates Dashboard, Strasburg rates are higher than some larger neighbors but competitive with some other nearby small towns.
Water and Sewer Bill for a home using 5,000 gallons in a month as of July 1, 2019:
- Highest in Virginia: $153.60
- Fauquier County: $135.07
- Clarke County: $130.46
- Berryville: $127.00
- New Market: $126.99
- Strasburg: $125.41
- Luray: $108.31
- Edinburg: $82.50
- Frederick County: $78.89
- Front Royal: $70.93
- Stanley: $55.50
- Lowest in Virginia: $33.31
The town had originally planned to implement the new fees starting July 1 but postponed the change since the economy has crashed due to the COVID-19 coronavirus.
A new trash contractor
Beginning in July, the town’s curbside trash pickup will be handled by Waste Management of Virginia. The current contractor—American Disposal Services—did not bid on a renewal.
The monthly fee will be $11.95. Currently, customers pay $11.00 per month—$8.95 for trash and $2.05 for recycling—with no administrative fees.
Curbside recycling pickup will no longer be offered, an increasing trend as that market is drying up. Residents are encouraged to take their recycling to the county landfill or a convenience site. The location closest to Strasburg is at 321 Powhatan Rd.
Pearson notes that the more residents recycle rather than sending those items out with regular trash, the bigger the savings to county taxpayers, including residents of the town.
Pearson says he has received a number of calls from residents who would like to see a curbside recycling service be offered to town residents and suspects that companies currently offering that service in other areas of Shenandoah County may consider coming to Strasburg as news of the business opportunity spreads.
The new trucks require that residents use a special “refuse cart.” One 96 gallon cart will be provided to each customer and additional carts can be leased for $1 per month.
The town plans to mail additional information to residents soon.