West Fargo residents and businesses will see an increase in water and sewer rates starting July 1.

Water bills will see a flat increase of 25 cents, but the sewer rate increase is much larger.

Users who use about 4,000 gallons of water a month would see their monthly bill of $35 increase to $35.25 in water fees and their sewer bills of $9 per month would increase to $25 per month.

Those who use more utilities, such as about 10,000 gallons a month, would see sewer rates increase from $9 to $41. Water rates would increase from $77 to $77.25.

The City Commission approved a rate increase at its Monday, May 18, after city consultants reported May 4 that current rates were not enough to completely cover operation, repair and infrastructure needs.

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City Finance Director Jim Larson said Monday that while the current water funds were OK, the city's sewer funds were too low, which could prohibit the city from selling bonds in the future to pay for repair and core projects.

"Our current rate structure does not fairly cover the use of the system," Larson said. "If we don't increase the rates, we would have to find alternative funding, which could be special assessments, dipping into our mill levy or using the general fund."

He said the current rate system is not totally fair to those residents who may not use as much as other properties.

"Changes would allow the city to charge those who use water and sewer much more for their use," Larson said.

The city currently partners with the city of Fargo to provide water and it also sends its wastewater to a regional treatment center in Fargo.

Larson said although the city contracts with Fargo, West Fargo still has distribution costs such as water towers and lift stations and pipes.

City Commissioner Mike Thorstad said while a rate increase is never easy, it is not due to the partnership with Fargo. He said the city thoroughly researched its options for water and wastewater treatment before partnering with Fargo, which offered the easiest option.

"Personally, I think Fargo is giving us a fair deal," Thorstad said.

Thorstad said there have been very few rate increases during his tenure on the City Commission.

The city's aquifers are drying up, Larson said, which means the city would have to start drawing from the Sheyenne River if it hadn't already partnered with Fargo, a venture that would be very costly to West Fargo residents.

Mayor Bernie Dardis called the rate increase a "necessary evil" to help quell future burdens on taxpayers such as special assessments or other taxes.