By Raymond Neupert/South Metro Observer

WESTON, Wis. – Wisconsin’s Public Service Commission is now taking public comments on a proposed water utility rate increase for the village of Weston, the first water rate hike since 2009.

Weston is requesting a 22 percent increase in their revenues to pay for a number of infrastructure improvements in the village’s water and sewer system. Village administrator Daniel Guild says this is something that has to happen every so often.

“Infrastructure does not stay in perfect condition forever,” Guild said. “But that increase is going to be used to maintain the system, to address the parts of the distribution system that are aging.”

Weston village residents currently pay the lowest price for municipal water in the Wausau Metro area, according to Guild.

Over the past year, village officials evaluated its rates with the help of financial and engineering consultants who are jointly recommending the increase, according to Keith Donner, Weston’s director of public works. In the latest village newsletter, Donner wrote that the rate increases are needed to keep up with current and projected costs that have risen over time.

A 17 percent sewer rate increase is also proposed.

Following the implementation of the rate increases, Weston expects its rates for the combined water and sewer bill will still be at or slightly below the average for the Wausau urbanized area, plus Stevens Point, Merrill, and Marshfield, according to Donner.

One question that can’t be answered right now is just how much rates will go up for each customer if the request is approved. The PSC has the ability to approve any, all, or none of the requested projects that the village wants to do.

“We don’t know what they’re going to determine the base charge will be, and we don’t know what the consumption charge after that will be,” Guild said.

Under the current system, Weston residents pay one flat fee for the first 12,000 gallons they use in a quarter, and an increased charge for the next 17,500 gallons.

One major change under the village’s request is a capital program to upgrade water meters in homes.

“We’re going to be upgrading to the radio read system, which will allow utility data to be electronically transmitted to the municipal center, rather than having our guys head out to check every meter individually,” Guild said.

Guild says that will free up employees to return to the duties of maintaining the water system. The new system will also allow the utility to move to monthly billing of residents in order to help even out their bill payments.

The Public Service Commission will be taking comments through June 30 at