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A research project to make East Aurora water bills easier to understand ended with a proposal to encourage conservation and lower bills, by as much as $10 per quarter, for some of the village’s 2,500 users.

After a consultant explained the details, the Village Board agreed to hold a public hearing Dec. 2. Water bills, long a source of public complaint, would be adjusted to more closely reflect the amount of water used, among other things.

“I think it cleans up what we’re doing,” said Libby Weberg, a village trustee who worked on the proposal with Village Administrator Bryan Gazda, Trustee Randy West and consultant Rick Henry. “It does give people incentive to conserve.”

Under the proposed new system, the billing fee for “O&M,” or system “operation and maintenance,” would be folded into water use so the charge would vary according to use. Now, the O&M fee is the same for all residential users regardless of how much water used.

“Use less water and you’ll get charged less,” said Henry, senior vice president with Clark Patterson Lee, who spent the last 10 months developing the proposal with Gazda, Weberg and West. “This bill distributes the cost fairly and, I think, transparently.”

Also, under the current system, the bill totals come from three lines that have not added up, Henry said.

• The debt service line for debt on infrastructure improvements, like water main upgrades, did not cover annual payments on the debt. In 2012 about $229,000 was collected and $314,000 was owed.

• The second line on water bills for operation and maintenance – $292,000 in revenue collected in 2012 – did not cover the amount needed: $541,000.

• The last and third line for water use was adjusted to reflect use and system needs, such as shortfalls in debt payment needs and O&M.

“We have a debt charge that doesn’t cover our debt and an O&M charge that doesn’t cover our O&M,” said Henry.

email: mkearns@buffnews.com