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Aldermen agree to up water, waste fees

Brookhaven officials are proceeding as planned with a 6 percentincrease in water and sewer rates and a $4-per-month increase inthe solid waste fee, aldermen decided Thursday.

During a work session last night, aldermen viewed new yearbudget proposals with the increases factored in. The increases area step toward generating additional revenue for operations and topurchase much-needed equipment.

“We’ve got make sure we don’t continue to lose money,” saidMayor Bob Massengill, adding that solid waste collection and waterand sewer are services that citizens expect from the city. “That’spart of what we’re here for.”

This year, solid waste operations are expected to lose almost$70,000.

The $4 solid waste fee hike is forecast to generate anadditional $267,000 for next year’s $1.07 million budget. Plannedexpenditures next year amount to $979,100.

That leaves solid waste with a $92,000 balance. Massengill saidthat would begin to allow the city to build up a reserve to replaceold equipment at the landfill.

“The landfill is a vital part of this city’s operations,”Massengill said.

The city currently has a contract with Waste Management forgarbage collection. City employees operate a trash collectionservice and rubbish fields at the landfill.

The proposed $4 increase to $16 a month generated somediscussion among board members.

“I have a problem with $4 to be honest,” said Alderman at largeLes Bumgarner, who suggested $2 annual increases over a two-yearperiod.

Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell said he had received some callsfrom residents regarding the $4 increase. Most calls were fromcitizens on fixed incomes and those who don’t use trash servicesoften.

After the $4 increase, city trash crews will pick up couches,mattresses and some other items. Currently, those items are onlypicked up if a resident pays an additional fee.

For trash pickup after the increase, Maxwell said the cityshould charge an extra fee for excessive amounts of trash that areput out for pickup.

“We’ve got to have something within reason,” Maxwell said. “Itcould get out of hand again.”

Of the current $12 monthly solid waste fee, $9.95 goes to WasteManagement under its contract for twice-weekly garbage collection.The remaining $2.05, which would increase to $6.05 after the feehike, is used to fund city trash pickup services.

Massengill said the board could look at other garbage and trashoptions next year when its contract with Waste Management comes upfor renewal.

“We’ve got to make a decision for now,” the mayor said.

The board approved going forward with the solid waste and waterand sewer fee increases beginning in October. Aldermen were in awork session and could not formally approve the increases until aregular board meeting.

In the water and sewer department, a 6 percent increase stillleaves it a little short in funding the operation. The new yearbudget anticipates $2,446,500 in revenue and $2,466,460 inexpenditures.

“Even with a 6 percent increase, we’re about $20,000 short,”Massengill said.

Officials said the deficit could be covered with carryover fundsto produce a balanced budget. However, that still leaves no moneyfor equipment purchases, the mayor said.

The 6 percent increases, the first in a multi-year plan forraises, were factored across the board. Subsequent years in thefive-year plans are hoped to be no more than 5 percent a year.

“A little bit from everyone adds up to getting the waterdepartment where it ought to be,” Massengill said.

For the largest group of water department customers, those whouse between 4,000 and 10,000 gallons a month, the water and sewerfee increase would amount to about 96 cents a month, City ClerkMike Jinks said. For minimum water users, who use less than 4,000gallons, Maxwell calculated a 63 cents a month increase.

“I don’t think you’ll get any complaints on water and sewer,”Maxwell said.

Water and sewer rates have not been raised in more 10 years andwere even lowered about eight years ago. Massengill said that hasresulted in water rates that are effectively at 1992 levels.

“There’s not a lot of things you can buy in 2005 at 1992 rates,”the mayor said.

The new budget year begins Oct. 1. City officials hope toformally approve new year budgets for solid waste, water and sewerand the general fund by early September.