All sewer customers and 80 percent of the county’s water customers will experience a rate increase soon, with water rates for some people increasing by more than 20 percent.
The Columbia Adair County Utility District board of directors approved the rate increases during a teleconference meeting last Thursday. All members took part in the conference call and supported the increase.
The district will implement the new rates as funding is approved for several proposed new projects and could be in effect by Aug. 1.
A total of 1,555 of the district’s 8,060 water customers use less than 1,000 gallons of water and will not see a change in their bill. Board member Richard Grant said the board wanted to set new rates that would not negatively impact individuals who live on a fixed income.
Currently, residential water bills are set at a minimum bill of $19.90 for the use of up to 2,000 gallons of water. The next 3,000 gallons are set at $7 per 1,000 gallons, followed by 5,000 gallons at $6.25, the next 15,000 gallons at $5.20 and over 25,000 gallons at $4.45 per 1,000 gallons. These rates apply to customers with a 5/8 x 3/4 inch meter, which applies to most residents.
Under the new rate structure, the minimum bill is set at $19.90 but usage is reduced to 1,000 gallons. For the next 4,000 gallons, the cost is an additional $7 per 1,000 gallons. The remaining rates stay the same.
Larger customers on a 1 inch meter will see the rate for the first 5,000 gallons increase from $40.90 to a $47.90 minimum bill. Rates for greater usage remain the same.
Overall, the rate is a 20.7 percent increase for a customer using 4,000 gallons of water.
Rates for the county’s 1,744 sewer customers will increase by almost 39 percent, with the minimum bill increasing from $5 to $7. Per gallon rate increases from $5.20 to $7.20 per 1,000 gallons.
The district expects to see an increase of $612,000 annually from the increased water rates and another $300,000 in increased revenue from the wastewater rate increase.
The district must receive approval from PSC for the rate increases, which are also tied into an application process for a $2.6 million project. The board approved several steps required to receive $1,945,000 as a USDA Rural Development loan and another $647,930 in grant funding for the project.
The project includes several improvements or expansions. The funds will be used to add an 8-inch waterline on the bypass between Burkesville Road and Jamestown Street, to replace a 6-inch line to repair leaks in the Shepherd and Little Cake areas, to add new waterlines in the Montpelier, White Oak areas, which would add from 20 to 40 new customers, to replace a countywide telemetry system, and to make improvements to the sewer system.
While the rate increase is required by USDA Rural Development to balance the budget before approving the new project, district manager Lenny Stone told the board that rates would need to be changed even without the new project.
“Our rates have not been adjusted since 2012. This is something we’ve got to do,” he said. He provided board members with a comparison of rates at other utility districts, with some higher and some lower than Adair County’s rates.
Also during last week’s teleconference meeting, the board accepted a petition for a request to add a main waterline on Tree Top Lane. Houses on the road do have water access but they are joined by service lines. Stone said there is a leak in the area but the area is solid rock and the project could not be completed in-house. Accepting the petition makes it possible to add the addition to future projects should the board choose to do so but does not approve any action.
Wid Harris is chairman of the board. Other board members are Doug Sapp, Junior Brown, Richard Grant and David Jones.
By Sharon Burton