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PWSA Rates To Go Up Nearly 50 Percent Over Next Three Years

Margaret J. Krauss
90.5 WESA
Seth Garrison of PWSA's financial consultant Raftelis presents to a special meeting of the board on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017.

Base water rates in Pittsburgh will increase by 49 percent by 2020. The board of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority also approved significant increases to 2018 capital and operating budgets in a special meeting Wednesday morning.

For the first time, rates will fund some capital investment. Considering all water customer types—business, manufacturing and residential—rates will increase by 28 percent in 2018. For the average residential customer, that’s a $15 per month increase. The increases will go into effect January 1.

Even with the increase, PWSA rates trail those of Penn American Water, which PWSA officials said is currently requesting a 16 percent rate increase.

Increases in rates and budgets will be used to hire more staff and invest in badly needed infrastructure upgrades, according to PWSA Interim Executive Director Bob Weimar. The changes amount to a paradigm shift, and a measurable commitment to becoming a best-in-class utility, he said.

“It’s not going to be ‘What am I doing today?’ It’s ‘How much did you get done today?’” He gestured to a hat on his desk, emblazoned with the letters GSD: Get (expletive) Done.

“I mean it,” he said.

Weimar said previous boards have approved budgets and essentially told PWSA to make do with what they had, instead of looking at what needed to be done and building a budget to support that.

There’s been a lot of talk about what the future of PWSA will be and how the authority will be structured, said board chairwoman Debbie Lestitian, referencing City Hall. 

“We can’t wait. We’re operating this entity like a business and we’re doing what we need to do to make sure that we reach our goals and objectives,” she said. “We can’t wait. We’re moving forward.”