After more than 30 years in business, the only laundromat in Mount Airy could be all washed up.

Pat and Gary Frey, owners of the Mount Airy Laundromat, say closing its doors could be their only option if the town does not change its water rates to a “fair” price.

In a recent interview, the Freys said their reason for closing would be high water rates, but Mayor Patrick Rockinberg said the couple should re-evaluate their business plan.

“It would be doubtful that the cost of their water would drive them out of business,” Rockinberg said in a telephone interview.

The Freys disagree. They said the laundromat would have to raise its prices by 565 percent in order to keep up with the water rates.

That means instead of paying $2.50 for a single load, customers would be charged $14.13. Or instead of paying $7 to use the 55-pound washer, customers would pay $39.55.

“The customers of Mount Airy Laundromat can not afford such an extreme increase,” the couple said in a flier that shows recent water rates. Many of their customers are low-income or elderly, they said Thursday.

Every week, Pat Frey, a social worker, and her husband, a real estate agent, pay about $550 toward the water bill they got behind on last year. The couple fell behind on their payments after the town switched to a tiered water rate system. In July 2012, a graduated system went into effect, and residents who used more water were required to pay more.

The Freys say that’s not fair.

In a petition signed by more than 200 customers, they explain that “it would be like being charged $3.60 for 5 gallons of gas and being charged $18.00 for 10 gallons of gas. You would find that unfair, and we find that unfair, for that is how the Laundromat is charged for water.”

On average, the laundry uses about 380,000 gallons of water per quarter. The switch to the tiered system left them with a bill for almost $6,000 — a number too high for the couple to manage, even though town officials say they are willing to work out a payment plan that would help the Freys catch up.

In a telephone interview Thursday, Rockinberg said he has done everything in his power to help the Freys, including coming up with a “multiyear” repayment plan for their bill.

Rockinberg also asked his staff to research water rates in surrounding areas, and it was determined the town’s rates were in the middle of the range.

“I feel that I have gone above and beyond,” Rockinberg said of his willingness to waive interest and fees in the future.

Even with those concessions, the Freys said that wouldn’t be enough to keep their business open because the water rate needs to change.

The possibility of closure has customers like Patty Gray worried because she uses the laundromat twice a week.

“I don’t have a washer and I don’t have a dryer,” Gray said in a telephone interview. She lives less than two miles from the laundromat and would have to travel to Frederick to do her laundry, a trip she does not want to make.

“That’s crazy,” Gray said.

Before the change, from 2005 to 2011, the couple’s water bill ranged from about $1,000 to $4,900, according to their records.

Due to the increase, the couple’s struggle has resulted in cutoff notices, even though Pat Frey has agreed to pay the town about $550 a week to catch up with back payments. The most recent notice threatened another cutoff within 30 days.

“The mayor told me specifically that we could not have the taxpayers pay for our water,” Pat Frey said, and she responded that the Freys are not asking anybody to pay for their water.

Follow Cara R. Anthony on Twitter: @CaraRAnthony.

(19) comments

watson4sherlock

A tiered system is meant to encourage conservation because building an additional water plant to provide the volume is costly. In this situation the water usage is benefitting individual residents who don't have washing equipment in their homes. It is not like it is a commercial industry bottling water and distributing it elsewhere.

380,000 gallons per quarter is 126,667 gallons per month. Maybe they will have to take some of the washers out of service to reduce their water usage below 80,000. Is there any chance of water leaking below the floor and they are paying for water they are not using in the washing machines?

(2) On the first 6,000 gallons consumed, the rate charge will be $2.00 for each 1,000 gals.

(8) For all gallonage in excess of 80,000 consumed, the rate charge shall be $9.38 for each 1,000 gallons.

See http://www.mountairymd.org/residents/utilities/


An average household with two people would use about 6000 gallons of water per month.

The average Maryland citizen uses about 100 gallons of water per day.

See http://www.mde.state.md.us/assets/document/ResAudit.pdf

watson4sherlock

It probably saves the city water for people to take their laundry out because they only wash full loads and they don't own inefficient washers that use a lot of water because they are cheap.

david_gaithersburg

All tiered systems are unfair, especially for something like water.

I found it disturbing that the mayor refused to answer the questions put before him while at the same time making the false claim that they were asking others to pay their bills. How is asking to be treated fairly asking others to pay your bills?

chesapeakecountry

Sounds like they are most likely all washed up to me....[wink]

sodalite3

"She lives less than two miles from the laundromat and would have to travel to Frederick to do her laundry, a trip she does want to make." Is there a job opening for a copy editor at the FNP...RIGHT NOW?[wink]

president8444

Dig a well.

watson4sherlock

Water well drilling and water system installation is a substantial cost in the life of a homeowner. Depending upon the depth of the water table, the quality of the water found, the types of pumps, tanks, and (possibly) cisterns necessary to make a successful system for your usage, it can cost anywhere from $8,000-$50,000.

See http://www.thompsonwaterwells.com/FAQs.html

watson4sherlock

They use 380,000 gallons of water. If it takes an average of 50 gallons of water per load then thats 7600 loads at $2.50 is $19,000 and they are paying $6,000 for water which is almost one third. They also have to pay rent or mortage on the property, electricity and gas, and equipment maintenance. This may be a public service to the community. Fortunately they both have other jobs.

public-redux

"A full-sized ENERGY STAR certified clothes washer uses 15 gallons of water per load, compared to the 23 gallons used by a standard machine."

http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=find_a_product.showProductGroup&pgw_code=CW

Perhapsnotyet

Of course your link is for a commercial washer right? Not one of those standard residential ones you would buy for your house because those would not last 6 months in a laundromat. Hey here's an idea. Since everyone has the answers to this problem I an sure these folks will not have any trouble selling the business so one of you can take it over and turn a profit there. WIN / WIN

watson4sherlock

I cannot answer for all machines, but the hard mount wasco Gen5 machines W185 and W125 use roughly 2 gallons per pound capacity. Thus, a 185 which is a 50 pound machine uses about 100 gallons over the course of 5 cycles. If you eliminate a cycle, you will drop water usage by 1/5th. You could cut out the prewash or the first rinse if you wanted to - I won' t tell you that you should or should not - that is up to you. You can also play with the level switch and either raise or lower water usage slightly.

See http://www.coinwash.com/mb/showthread.php?t=88

CRACKER_LEE

People keep saying we should feel lucky to have a job. So I will say he should feel lucky to still be in business.

frederickhole

[thumbup]

dressthebird

So, the cost of water with rising rates with more usage Is kinda like the US income tax - you make more, you are taxed at a higher rate. USA USA USA!

formerfcps

Yet another businessman seeking handouts and special tax breaks. A real taker! What has he done to reduce his water bill over the years? Nothing! Laundromats have to most water-wasteful of machines. Ever try drying your clothes in a laundromat dryer? There's no end to the chain of quarters you have to pump in. The heaters are set so low, or intentionally disconnected, and the timers adjusted down to the minimum that they take forever to dry. I wonder if laundromat patrons realize how much more they spend at a laundromat over buying an inexpensive washer-dryer set?

NASCARLOVER

Cheaper, in the long run, for people to buy washer/dryer of their own...when feasible...

chesapeakecountry

But sadly not an option for many living from day to day.

fredneckian

Perhaps this is an opportunity for Peace and Plenty to advertise their wares in Mt Airy. Some of their w/ds aren't pretty, but they work. I replaced a bad dryer last yr with one from there, Pd $125.00 and it has worked fine and has a warranty.

Yes I know that is still beyond the means of many, just saying that there are less expensive options than spending $1,000 for a new set.

I have no connection to P&P other than being a satisfied customer.

Comment deleted.
RIGHTonline

Peace and Plenty only guarantees their wares for 30 days....not much of a guarantee. They also charge a fee to come out and pick up your used appliances....on top of the money they make from selling something that you gave them for nothing in the first place (!). Dealt with them quite some time ago. Stopped when they began charging to pick up items that YOU were donating to THEM. Tis called greed. Option.....Most people have friends or relatives that would probably be happy to allow use of their washer / dryer for next to nothing. Many of us know from experience (though it may be ancient history for many) that laundromats charge a small fortune for the short amount of drying time that you get. Though they may be "hurting" on the water side of this equation, they are doing quite well on the drying side. Just like the furniture rental companies, laundromats are one of many businesses / services that often take advantage of people starting out or starting over.

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