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Raleigh OKs new water rates, spending on public art

Residents who use a lot of water will soon have to pay more for it, while those who conserve will get a break on their water bills.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The City Council voted Tuesday to support a tiered rate structure for municipal water system customers and to set aside money to purchase art for public spaces.

The council delayed discussion of a proposal for a bypass road on the west side of Crabtree Valley Mall.

The council voted a year ago to implement tiered water rates to encourage conservation. A consultant was hired to study the best way of implementing variable pricing for water while the city installed the necessary software to handle the new method of billing.

Raleigh currently charges all water customers $3.89 per month, plus $1.96 for each 748-gallon unit consumed. Under guidelines the City Council approved Tuesday, the city would shift to a three-tiered system for residential customers and two tiers for non-residential customers.

The bottom residential tier would be for customers who use less than 3,000 gallons a month, while the second tier would be for those who use between 3,000 and 7,500 gallons. The top tier would include anyone using more than 7,500 gallons a month.

The City Council still needs to set the rates for each tier, but officials said the average residential customer uses about 6,000 gallons a month and would pay about the same under the new system.

Water used for irrigation and other outdoor uses would be charged at the top rate under the tiered system. All new homes are required to have a separate water meter for irrigation.

In other action, the council approved a plan to allocate 0.5 percent of its capital improvement spending for the creation and development of public art, beginning with selected pilot projects planned for construction after April 1.

City Manager Russell Allen will submit a list of eligible capital improvement projects to the City’s Arts Commission, which will review the list and forward a recommendation to the City Council to consider.

The interim program will be used until the City Council adopts an ordinance creating a permanent arts spending program.

The council also agreed to seek a release of the property lien on a city-owned site intended to be the future location of a downtown amphitheater. The property is bounded by McDowell, Cabarrus, Dawson and Lenoir streets, and the getting a bank to release its lien on the property is needed to keep any private uses associated with an amphitheater from adversely impacting the tax-exempt status of the city bonds used to finance the downtown convention center and other downtown improvements.

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