Lincoln County, Mo. - Water is the essential life force of the planet.
Nothing can live without it. The human body cannot live without it – and a community cannot survive without it.
However, in a community, water doesn’t come for free, but some pay more for it than it than others – and Lincoln County is no different.
The water and sewer rates of each of the county’s municipalities were broken down by their base rates and a rate per 1,000 gallons, and an average bill was computed for a family of four that used a maximum of 7,000 gallons.
Lincoln County’s lowest water and sewer bills belong to the county’s largest city, Troy, whose residents pay about $100.75. Mayor Ron Sconce said, while the low bills has a lot to do with the large number of residents sharing in the proverbial “pot,” he also said the city tries to keep as much in its water fund for maintenance costs as possible.
“We want to keep prices low and keep our costs down,” Sconce said. “Sometimes, we haven’t always been able to do that, and that’s when we’ve had to raise rates, but we didn’t want to price people out.
“We know people have to eat.”
Hawk Point has the second-lowest rates in the county. Customers are paying $121 for their water and sewer bills.
Winfield customers pay about $125.10 per month for water and sewer, which is the third lowest. Mayor Dawn Garver said she hopes customers are happy with the prices and the service in the growing town in eastern Lincoln County.
“If we’re the third lowest, I would say we’re very comparable (with the other areas),” Garver said. “We consult with Missouri Rural Water on our rates, and we don’t deter from what they tell us.
“This is what we charge, according to our infrastructure.”
Moscow Mills sits in the middle, with its residents paying $138.92 for its water and sewer. Rates are going up on April 1, however, an annual increase mandated by the city for maintenance, and as, Mayor Patrick Flannigan said, for the modern economy in the fastest-growing city in the county.
“There’s a little thing called inflation out there – and we’re trying to stay with it,” he said. “The aldermen don’t want to catch flak from the citizens, and maintenance goes down – and you get a call from (the Department of Natural Resources) with a fine. Ask Troy about that.
“(Raising rates yearly) is what you have to do when you’re operating your own water system.”
Flannigan also said communities and industries are very similar, and have to be looked at as such.
“When a manufacturing company has 10 plants, it has to be operating at 96% capacity before building an 11th plant,” he said. “Look at a city the same the way, as a manufacturing operation.
“You have to have the infrastructure available to continue running.”
In the eastern part of the county, the rural residents of Public Water Supply District of Lincoln County No. 1, which covers Foley and Old Monroe pay about $140.48 monthly for water and sewer, while Elsberry customers pay more at $148.38.
Silex residents pay the second-highest water and sewer bills in the county at $155.85 for a family of four, but Mayor Stuart Gambrill said if one looks deeper into the numbers, a different story starts forming.
“Silex has only 96 accounts paying on the same pie, whereas a city like Troy has more accounts on it, so their bills would be much lower,” he said.
As part of the American Relief Plan Act funding, the town is looking for solutions to improve its overall water situation, and hooking up to another water provider has been on the table, which could change its rates in the future.
“We’re doing rate studies (with Missouri Rural Water) right now to see what it’s costing us to put out,” Gambrill said. “It’s one of the downfalls of living in a small town, as opposed to a big city, but it’s a trade-off.
“You get the peace, quiet, less traffic and low crime, but you don’t get as much access.”
Bringing up the rear with the highest rates in the area is the Public Water Supply District of Lincoln County No. 2, which serves rural Troy. Customers are paying around $167.16 monthly, which is nearly $15 more than Silex – and 20% more than PWSD No. 1 customers are paying.
Nevertheless, PWSD No. 2 President David Lenk evoked many of the same sentiments Gambrill made when discussing the rates, saying the size of the district pales in comparison to others.
“We buy our water from the City of Troy, and we are a small district. We only have 380 customers,” he said. “If you look at PWSD No. 1, they have much more customers. They carry Old Monroe and Foley, so they can afford to charge less.”
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