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WASA defends sewer rate hikes in PTC

After dramatically raising its sewer rates last month, the Peachtree City Water and Sewer Authority had just four residents attend its meeting Monday evening.

Resident Doreen Helmen asked why the city’s sewer bills would be 63 percent higher than those for residents in the city of Fayetteville.

WASA board member Jeff Prellberg explained that Fayetteville has only one sewer plant and it is used much closer to its allowed capacity compared to Peachtree City’s two plants, which are permitted to treat 6 million gallons a day but average about 3.5 million gallons.

Prellberg said WASA has worked to cut costs, in large part by operating with two unfilled positions.

WASA also defended its 4-1 decision to have cost of living and merit raises for its employees in the 2010-2011 budget at a cost of $71,000. WASA Chairman Wade Williams noted that of the authority’s $8.4 million budget this year, the raises equal .008 percent of that total.

The rate increase, which will result in most residents’ sewer bills at least doubling, will be in effect as of Dec. 1.

Peachtree City Councilman Eric Imker said he wanted to see the authority’s financial data for the past five years and also wanted to know how much each individual WASA employee makes.

WASA board member Mike Harman told Imker he was welcome to review all such documents that are allowed under Georgia’s Open Records Act, but the requests should be made to WASA General Manager Stephen Hogan, not the WASA board itself.

Williams also challenged an assertion that Imker made at a recent council meeting that the authority’s “tap-in” fees to bring sewer service to a new building were too high and therefore a disincentive for new businesses to locate here. Williams noted that the tap-in fees are well in line with what other sewer providers charge, and as such the fees are not turning businesses away.

Imker’s comments were that “the authority was precluding development in Peachtree City,” Williams said. “And that’s not true.”

Imker chided the board for “acting as if you didn’t want the public to know” about the $71,000 in merit and cost of living raises it has budgeted for the coming year.

Imker based his statement on an exchange he had with WASA officials at October’s meeting during which the board was discussing the proposed rate increase. The next item on the agenda was the budget, and WASA officials said they would discuss the employee raises at that time, but ultimately the board relented to Imker and shared the information as part of the rate increase discussion instead of withholding the information until the budget agenda item was called at the meeting.

In other business, WASA General Manager Stephen Hogan reminded the authority that because water usage and therefore sewer fee revenue was down from March through July, the authority spent about $400,000 out of reserves to pay its debt service payments.

Hogan said he plans to replace those payments in the authority’s cash reserves “and then some.”

Hogan noted that the authority had received “a few” phone calls and emails inquiring about the rate increase. Some of those with inquiries had misunderstood the affect of the increase on their bills and WASA officials were able to explain it to them, Hogan said.

Helmen asked the authority to look into a recent sewage backup into her home, as her plumber informed her the problem was on the city’s portion of the sewer line. Hogan said the matter would be investigated.

Helmen noted that she lives on Golf View in one of the older areas of town. WASA officials noted they have a contract to use a special video camera system that inspects sewer pipes, and this year about 75 miles of sewer pipe will be inspected under that program.



jqp_ptc's picture

$71,000 is 0.8% of the budget, not 0.008%. It's a little trick we call math.

You are correct, it is .8%, but that is still less than 1/100th of the increase and yet like a dog with a bone, Imiker latches on. This fellow is obviously a once corporate manager whose every answer to every problem is to cut workforce or pay. Fully 99.2% of this increase has nothing to do with a cost of living increase. Here's a corporate buzz term, how about looking for some real "low hanging fruit" and quit blaming the people who are working to keep your sewers clear.

Just got the notice in my water bill about sewer rate increase to take effect beginning Dec 1st.

Base bill was $20, with zero per 1,000 gals (they convienently don't mention that part.)
Base bill now $26, with $4.65 per 1,000 gals.
So my average monthly usage of about 4,500 gals (ave for typical home in PTC) the rate goes from $20 a month to [$26 + (4 x $4.65)] = $44.60 a month.
Thanks for more than doubling the rate.
Thanks for the mismanagement over the last 5 years when you knew Photocircircuits revenue went away and did nothing about it.
Thanks for the misleading "Oh we have to pay for the bond." Read shell game.
Thanks for giving 5% raise to your employees while everyone else is held to zero pay raise.
Thanks for making my water and sewer annual bill now more than my entire PTC city tax bill.
Just Thanks, since we can't do anything about it.

PTC Observer's picture

You can always move outside the city limits, I think this is what most people will do as PTC is mismanaged to its death.

Thanks for the reminder Observer.
Thanks WASA for making it that much more difficult to sell homes in an already beleaguered market.

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