Dagsboro approves water rate hike to address increase
The Dagsboro Town Council this week unanimously approved its second rate increase for its water customers in just the past year, seeking to address an unexpected sharp increase in costs from the Town’s own water supplier — the neighboring Town of Millsboro.
With the Oct. 21 vote, the new rates will take effect for the Nov. 1 billing cycle, which will include a $35 base monthly rate plus a usage charge of $6 per 1,000 gallons.
The Town was faced with losses potentially topping more than $117,000 from the 2019-2020 fiscal-year budget if they had left the water rates at the previously approved rate. With the rate change, the council will lessen the burden of transferring funds from the Water Impact Fee account to cover all of the extra expense that will have already put out — not budgeted for — until they receive the bills from Millsboro each month, and until they start collecting from the consumers.
“We did not want to do this,” Mayor Brian Baull told those in attendance for the meeting. “This is something that was forced upon us by with the changes made by Millsboro. It affects us, too, as residents of the town.”
There were approximately 20 people in attendance for the public hearing on Monday, with three residents speaking for and against the new water rates proposed.
“I don’t want to say I like this thing that we are talking about, but I think it’s the best way to deal with the situation,” said longtime Dagsboro resident Bob Flowers. “Our water system underground is getting so aged. … If we don’t make money on our water system, we’re going to be in deep trouble in the next few years.”
Resident Jim Thompson was allotted an additional three minutes to speak during the open session, and spoke against the proposed increase. He also presented the council with a spreadsheet that featured “The Thompson Plan,” which called for a $10-per-month fixed rate, where every gallon used would only cost 1 cent.
“To give you an idea how bizarre this proposal is in my eyes,” Thompson started. “What if there is one gas station in every town in Sussex County, and every gas station says you can have all the gas you want for 60 cents a gallon — pretty cheap, right? One caveat: you’ve got to pay $350 a month base rate in order to get your gas for 60 cents a gallon. Nobody would go for that except a big trucking company or a contractor with a fleet of trucks.
“What I am driving at here is that, the way this system is being proposed, it shifts the burden of the cost of the water system on the small-volume users, under 5,000, 6,000 gallons a month, and lets the big-volume users … basically get away with damn near nothing.”
Jean Holloway, state program manager for Delaware/Maryland Eastern Shore Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project (SERCAP), who was on hand to assist the council with answering any questions about the new rate being proposed, debunked Thompson’s claim on the proposal.
“The one problem with that is it makes the Town very vulnerable to usage fluctuations, and there is not a revenue stream stable enough to cover their debt service and so forth,” said Holloway. “If you raise the rates from $4.15 to $10, people are going to conserve — your revenue is going to go down.”
Councilman William Chandler III had asked about a way to charge higher-volume users a higher rate, such as is the case in Georgetown, where there is an additional $35 charge for 30,000 gallons used, to recover long-term debt.
Town Administrator Cynthia Brought pointed out that it was important to note that higher-end users will likely have larger meters, and therefore will be paying for more than a single equivalent dwelling unit (EDU) in their base charge.
To which Holloway noted, “If you charge per EDU, you probably already are.”
Ultimately, the council concluded they had no other option but to go this route to resolve the matter, and save themselves from completely wiping out the Water Impact Fee account. Now, with the rate change, the 440-plus paying households and businesses will pay the $35 monthly base rate plus $6 per 1,000 gallons of water.
Those rates will take effect Nov. 1 for that month’s billing cycle.
Police promote officer, report on September stats
Dagsboro Police Chief Steve Flood kicked off Oct. 21 council meeting by announcing a promotion for L.Cpl. Steve Discuillo to sergeant. It was the second promotion of the year for Discuillo, who had been promoted to lance corporal from patrolman first class back in February.
In January, Discuillo was also awarded the Expert Officer Cord. The award was for his meticulous and impartial enforcement of the law during the period February 2018 to January 2019. His efforts led to an overall performance exceeding 1,000 criminal and traffic arrests with a conviction rate greater than 85 percent.
Flood also presented council with the department’s statistics from September 2019. The department handled 43 total traffic arrests during the 30 days, with eight total criminal arrests, which included shoplifting, conspiracy, forgery and theft. Additionally, 11 wanted subjects were apprehended for local jurisdictions and the courts.
By Jason Feather