Beginning with the bills to be delivered later this month, Pioche Public Utilities’ rates are going to be raised.

County commissioners approved the request for increases at the commission meeting on Feb. 5.

The rates will increase the water and sewer rates for residential and commercial customers by $2 a month each, and the electricity rate by $4.

Board member Glenn Zelch said the reason for raising the rates is “because they were losing money.”

Pioche had considered having the Lincoln County Water District and Lincoln County Power take over the services, but Zelch said that in comments taken from a number of public meetings discussing several options, “the vast majority of citizens expressed their feelings to ‘keep the water and power, raise the rates.’ They all went into it with eyes wide open. Everybody had a chance to express their thoughts one way or the other.”

He noted the people did not want to give up control of the utilities to other agencies, “because then we really don’t have any choice in what happens.”

Zelch explained that in earlier studies by PPU, it was discovered the system has been losing money for the past six or seven years and needed to make some changes. “Nobody really wants to raise rates,” Zelch said, “but it was time and just had to be done. We had looked at numerous ways of doing things without raising rates, but finally had to face the fact of the need. The amount we were losing kept gradually creeping up over the years. We were depleting our cash reserves. The auditor was after us for several years, so we finally made the request for rate increase.”

Zelch said he expected additional rate increases in the future, but maybe a year or more away.

“We have quite a few upgrades to make on the system that had been postponed because of the potential of restructuring the utility provider,” Zelch said. “But now the improvements and upgrades are going to be going into effect this year and a few years to come. We’re going to do everything we possibly can to upgrade the system, make things more reliable and operate better.”