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Utility Rate Increase Cut Down as Alexandria Residents Reel from COVID-19

(Updated 4:25 p.m.) Local wastewater management service Alexandria Renew Enterprises (AlexRenew) is still going to need that $370 to $555 million for the massive upcoming infrastructure project, but due to COVID-19 the organization is cutting down the planned utility rate increase.

“Recognizing the impact COVID-19 has had on the Alexandria community, AlexRenew has updated its previously planned budget, which included an 11% rate increase that was approved last year to support RiverRenew, a state-mandated program to address Alexandria’s combined sewer pollution,” AlexRenew said in a press release. “While an increase is still necessary to support the project, AlexRenew has reduced its rate increase to 6.6%, which will go into effect July 1.”

The utility service said that the average residential customer could see an average monthly bill increase of less than $3 per month with this approved increase.

The reduction comes amid widespread job loss that’s hit Alexandria harder than some of its neighbors, like Arlington. Ongoing construction, and a state-manded 2025 deadline, means that AlexRenew can’t eliminate the bill increase entirely.

“The updated Fiscal Year 2021 budget will allow AlexRenew to continue essential operations to clean wastewater while fulfilling its commitment to complete RiverRenew, a state-mandated program to address Alexandria’s combined sewer pollution, by the 2025 deadline,” Alexrenew said. “To continue the needed investment in this construction program, parts of which are currently underway and the bulk of which will be awarded this December, a rate increase is needed.”

After it came to light that the city was dumping millions of gallons of raw sewage into the Potomac River, the state required Alexandria to completely reform its sewer system by 2025. The city has assigned that task to Alexandria Renew Enterprises (AlexRenew), which in been pushing forward with RiverRenew — the largest infrastructure project in Alexandria’s history.

AlexRenew also announced that the RiverRenew project has also earned low-interest loans through state and federal programs. Additionally, in April 2019, the Virginia General Assembly appropriated a $25 million grant in support of RiverRenew. The organization also made internal cuts, like freezing pay increases for staff, hiring freezes, reducing discretionary spending and deferring capital projects.

“We understand the impact COVID-19 has had on the lives of Alexandrians, and we have adapted to continue to serve our community 24/7/365 by keeping our community healthy through cleaner waterways,” says Karen Pallansch, AlexRenew CEO. “AlexRenew remains focused on fulfilling its vital mission to manage wastewater and improve the waterways that connect us.”

Top photo via Alexandria Renew Enterprises/Facebook

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