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Aldermen OK water, sewer rate hikes

Although residential customers will see some impact, largecommercial water users will bear the brunt of higher city water andsewer rates approved Tuesday night by the Brookhaven Board ofAldermen.

“You’re basically paying for the demand,” said engineer DerrickTucker in the presenting the new fee schedule following a ratestudy that was not completed until recently.

According to the new rate schedule, which must be publishedbefore going into effect Oct. 1, the minimum fee for up to 3,000gallons of water will remain at $7.15 a month and the sewage feefor the same amount of water will hold steady at $3 a month.

For water rate from usage between 3,000 gallons and a milliongallons will rise 20 cents per 1,000 gallons to $1.70 while thesewage fee will go up 15 cents per 1,000 to $1.40. Based on7,000-9,000 gallon usage, Tucker said the average customer will seean increase of about $1.80 to $2 a month.

Estimates on the additional revenue expected to be generatedfrom the increases were unavailable.

Verbalee Watts, city accountant, indicated keeping the minimumrate the same and keeping the lower end water usage rate hike aslow as possible would keep the load off residential customers.

“We tried to protect them in doing this,” Watts said.

Under the new rate schedule, Watts said commercial users willsee the largest increase.

“To me, that is how it should be,” she said.

According to schedule, the water and sewer rates for between onemillion and two millions gallons will go up 30 cents to $1.80 and35 cents to $1.60 respectively for every 1,000 gallons.

Users who require over two million gallon of water a month willsee their rates double. Their water fee will go to $3 per 1,000gallons and the sewer fee will rise to $2.50 per 1,000 gallons.

City water customers outside the city limits will continue topay double rates. No action was taken last night to change thatsituation.

Tucker said the city’s last rate increase was in 1989. Heindicated the new city rates are in line with those in othercities.

“These are comparable yet lower than some of the othermunicipalities we’ve spoken with,” he said, mentioning thatBrookhaven’s rate was 28 cents per 1,000 gallons lower thanPearl.

Watts said the rate increase was necessitated by increasedsalaries, equipment demands and other changes since 1989.

“You just don’t have much choice,” Watts said.

The new rate schedule was approved 6-1. Ward 3 Alderman the Rev.Jerry L. Wilson voted against the measure.

Above the unchanged minimum usage fee, the new water ratesrepresent increases between 13.3 percent and 100 percent. On sewerrates, the increases range from 12 percent to 100 percent.

The combined water and sewer rate increase represents jumpsbetween 12.65 percent and 100 percent.

Facing a solid waste fund deficit for the new fiscal year thatstarts Oct. 1, aldermen earlier voted to increase the garbagecollection fee from $9 a month to $12 a month.

That fee is paid along with residents’ water bills. Therefore,with the new garbage fee and the new water and sewer rates, theaverage customer can expect to see a $4.80 to $5 a month increasein the total bill.

In other business Tuesday, aldermen heard from Sandra Bowlinregarding the HOME program.

The highly competitive program provides up to $350,000 toremodel or reconstruct homes that are in need of repairs. Bowlinsaid that amount would allow work on six or seven homes.

“It’s a very helpful program to people who otherwise wouldn’tget help,” Bowlin said.

Bowlin said cities generally begin planning for the grantapplication in November, with the application due in March.

Some city officials, however, expressed concerns over past HOMEprogram done in the city.

“We’ve had trouble with everyone of these people who tried tostart one of these HOME programs,” said Mayor Bill Godbold.

Concerns mentioned included funds being spent to remodel homeswhen they should have been rebuilt, “shotty” work and inspectionproblems. City Clerk Iris Rudman pointed out that the city’s 1998program has not been closed out because of unresolved complaintsabout work done.

“They’re not going to let you have a new program in Brookhavenif the old one’s not finished,” Rudman said.

Wilson, who has been working with Bowlin, defended the programand its benefits for citizens “on both sides of the fence.”

“We do need it. This program would be a blessing to the city,”Wilson said.

In other business Tuesday, aldermen:

* Approved the reappointments of Leroy Hewitt, Bobby Harris andLu Becker to the Planning Commission and Joyce Askin, Mark Lewisand Bob Buie to the Board of Adjustments.

* Held a public hearing with Don Perkins of Perkins FurnitureCo. regarding cleaning up of the lot around the store.

* Adopted a new travel reimbursement form for use by the cityemployees.

* Approved Kim Carr and Associates as the city’s only companyfor employee drug testing. The city had been using both Carr’s firmand the Human Performance Company for the testing service.

* Authorized the purchase of a new computer for the cityairport. In addition to that, Airport Advisory Board Chairman PaulBarnett said a new fueling system will be installed next week,

“We’re making progress,” Barnett said.

* Adopted a policy that all vendors and contractors doing workwith the city must have worker’s compensation insurancecoverage.