Board approves rate hikes for water, sewer

Published 5:00 am Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Brookhaven Board of Aldermen voted in favor of a $2.81 totalincrease water and sewer fees Tuesday night, saying that it must bedone whether they liked it or not.

“None of us ever wants to raise fees or rates, but we’rerequired by the law to operate our water and sewer department inthe black,” said Mayor Bob Massengill.

In addition to the basic rate, the current $2 delinquent feewill be raised to $4.

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The water and sewer departments are enterprise funds, whichmeans they have to operate solely off revenue they generate throughfees paid by users. With the pending loss of income generated bySpecialty Minerals Inc., the city is looking at the loss of$250,000 a month.

Financial consultant Demery Grubbs told the board last weekthere were three possible ways to make up $150,000 of the loss permonth, which is what it will take to keep the department in theblack. The most favorable of the three was to take the minimumwater rate, which is currently at $8.60 a month, and the minimumsewer rate, which is now $6.45 a month, and raise both rates to$8.93.

The moves would bring minimum users’ monthly bills to $17.85,which Grubbs had told aldermen is still lower than most other areacities.

Ward Two Alderman Terry Bates said it’s a better idea to takethe whole rate jump at this time than to move up a small amount ata time.

“If we follow Demery’s suggestion, then we wouldn’t have toincrease rates again at the next budget,” said Bates. “If we onlyraise it a small amount, that’s what would have to happen.”

Ward One Alderman Dorsey Cameron made the motion to raise therates, saying that in spite of the fact it was an unpleasant task,it was better to get it over with.

“I’m not just making this motion because we all know it’ssomething we have to do,” he said. “We know the reason we have tois that we lost one of our big volume customers and we’re going tohave to do it now or later.”

Massengill said Grubbs should be thanked for his work to find anaffordable way to keep the city water and sewer departmentafloat.

“We’ll have to tighten our belts and operate as economically aswe can,” he said. “Older towns have older wells and older sewersystems, and thus more problems.”

The city, however, has a good supply of underground water,Massengill said. For that, he said, city residents can bethankful.

“It should last us for a long time,” he said. “We are blessed tohave the aquifers that we have, but we have to pump the water tothe surface, and there’s a cost involved in that.”

Alderman at-large Les Bumgarner also praised the work of thewater department, saying people don’t always think about what ittakes to get the clean water they have in their homes.

“People turn the tap on and don’t appreciate the expense thatgoes into it. But if it didn’t flow, they’d have something to sayabout it,” he said. “The people in the water department work dayand night to make sure everyone’s happy. It’s not a nine to fivejob.”

The rates will go into effect 30 days after the ordinance ispublished with the new rates, City Clerk Mike Jinks said.


In other activities, South Second Street resident Carolyn Reedcame to speak to the board about what she and her neighbors werecalling “a neighborhood crisis.” The crisis, she said, involved aflock of chickens that had been invading her yard.

“They’re destroying my property,” she said. “As soon as I dosomething for my yard, here they come.”

Brookhaven Police Chief Pap Henderson said his animal controlofficer is on the job trying to round up the chickens to keep themfrom causing further damage. He said the flock, which at one pointhe estimated was around 20 chickens, is down to six, and he expectsthem all to be curtailed by the end of the week.