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Akron announces water rate increase, affordability program

Water flows from a tap into a sink

Akron water bills are going to be going up after the city announced a rate increase and new meter charge. Residential customers should expect to see an increase of between $10 and $12 per month after the start of the new year, according to a city press release.

The increase, the first since 2012, includes a new flat surcharge of $9 for residential customers with water lines up to 1 inch and a bump in rates by $0.33 per hundred cubic feet, or HCF, of water, the release said.

The hike is expected to bring in an additional $15 million per year which the city plans to invest in replacing aging water infrastructure. The city also announced it is creating a new water affordability program to help those struggling to pay the increase.

The new funds are necessary to keep up with inflation and help pay for infrastructure projects, said Jeff Bronowski, the city's water bureau manager.

“The Akron water system is over 100 years of age,” Bronowski said. “We have a water plant that was constructed and went into operation in 1915. Approximately 25% of the water mains that we have in our distribution system... are over 100 years old.”

Some projects set to be funded by the rate increase are a replacement of the 110-year-old Brittain Road Reservoir, continued water main replacements and lead service line replacements.

It is important to maintain infrastructure before it becomes a larger problem, Bronowski said.

“As this infrastructure ages, there's always the risk of failure,” he said. “Getting out in front of this before there's catastrophic situations is so, so important.”

The rate increases only apply to drinking water. Sewer and sanitation rates will not increase. The change is, in part, a restructuring, which will also eliminate the declining block rate structure that provided a 10% discount for customers of over 30 HCF a month. In its press release, the city said most residential customers use between four and six HCF a month.

The discount was eliminated because it did not benefit average customers, Bronowski said.

“A typical residential customer will use anywhere from two to five HCF, so a typical single-family home with three or four persons within the home is usually utilizing three to four,” he said. “They were never able to take advantage of that discount that was coming in at 30 HCF, so that's being eliminated.”

Applications for the new water affordability program, the Akron Water Bill Assistance Program, will be available on the city's website beginning on Jan. 1, 2024.

The program will offer 40% discounts on water rates, including the billing charge and meter charge, for eligible residents. The program will help residents who struggle to afford the changes, Bronowski said.

“We’re going to be adding to those bills generally somewhere between $10 and $12 a month,” he said. “We didn't want to make it more difficult for those that meet those income qualifications.”

Residents are eligible if they are a homeowner or tenant that receives the Summit County Homestead Exemption, a Home Energy Assistance Program letter of participation or they have a Percentage of Income Payment Plus letter of participation.

Incoming Mayor Shammas Malik said he understands the need to improve water infrastructure, but he will monitor the changes after he takes office on January 1, 2024.

“If there are things that need modified, we’ll do that,” he said.

Grace Springer is a journalism student at Kent State University. She is the General Assignment Editor for KentWired and covers executive administration for student media.