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FARMINGTON — The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority is preparing to hold public information meetings to discuss a proposal to raise water and wastewater rates.

NTUA Deputy General Manager Rex Kontz said on Monday the proposed increase would help fund infrastructure repairs and replacements.

Kontz said the tribal utility has had to repair its systems when they area damaged by heavy rain, flooding or winter freezes. And, depending on the type of damage, the repair costs can be expensive, he added, and the rate increase would help pay for those projects.

The proposed increase would also generate funding for routine maintenance, Kontz said.

Under the proposal, the water rate would increase by a little more than $2 a month for residential customers who use 4,200 gallons of water a month, which represents an average customer, according to an NTUA press release.

For wastewater services, the proposed increase would be 4 percent per year for the next five years, according to the release.

Kontz could not provide an amount for an average bill, which varies depending on whether the utility supplies water to the home, whether the service is residential, commercial or industrial, and other factors.

NTUA's last phased-in rate increase began in 2010 and ended in 2014.

The tribal utility provides water service to 37,000 customers and wastewater service to 11,000 customers on the Navajo Nation.

During the public information meetings, NTUA will explain its reasons for seeking the rate increases and hear comments and questions about the rate adjustment from customers, according to the release.

Once the schedule for the public information meetings is finalized, it will be posted on NTUA's website and advertised, Kontz said.

"As soon as we get it arranged, we'll publish a schedule," he said.

Information collected at the public information meetings as well as customers comments will be presented to the NTUA Management Board, according to the release.

Kontz added the management board has the authority to implement or deny the rate increases.

If approved, the new rates would go into effect in January.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and nsmith@daily-times.com. Follow her @nsmithdt on Twitter.

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