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Barker water rates will more than double

Village residents will see a big hike in their water rates -- more than double the amount -- when the next billing cycle begins July 10 to help pay for the second phase of the village's water line replacement project.

The Village Board this month unanimously adopted a local law raising the base rate from $30 for the first 5,000 gallons of water used to $70 per 5,000 gallons. The vote followed a public hearing at which six residents spoke against the rate increase and two spoke in support.

The $40 increase per quarter will equal a hike of $160 per year, and Village Clerk Kathie Smith said it will continue for the 38-year life of the project loan.

Village officials are still hoping to drop the rates a bit, if the project ends up costing less than the estimates, according to Smith.

"But we needed to raise the base rates to $70 [per quarter] because we are required to show that we can pay back the full estimated cost of the project," she noted.

Prior to Monday, the board had not raised rates in 13 years, she added.

Mayor Herb Meyer said: "We have taken out a low-interest loan of just under $1 million from the federal government for this. Rather than just add the [rate] increase to the tax rolls, we increased the water rates, because it makes the burden easier by spreading it over four payments a year instead of one. It also means tax-exempt organizations will be contributing to the cost of the water line replacement."

"The board put a lot of thought into the best way to do this and feels it needs to finish the project for water safety and fire protection," Smith said.

In May, the Village Board awarded a $749,721 bid to Millherst Construction, of Clarence Center, to complete the project the village began two years ago.

The company hopes to begin work this month and to complete it by the end of November. The project entails replacing antiquated water lines on Quaker Road, Woodward Avenue, and Main and Church streets.

The board received a $743,491 grant in February 2009 to help replace its water lines through the state Office of Community Renewal, which was bolstered by federal economic stimulus package funds. Village officials had been trying to procure such a grant for more than two decades.

The board awarded a $599,893 contract to Mar-Wal Construction Co. of Depew in January 2010 to begin the project, replacing water lines on Coleman Road, High Street, East Avenue and the village portion of West Somerset Road. Engineering and administrative fees accounted for the use of the rest of the grant money.