Utility Authority approves rates that bring all customers to same level
Published 7:00 am Friday, March 18, 2016
Rate increases were approved by the Pearl River County Utility Authority Board of Trustees during their Thursday meeting.
The increases will bring residents in the gated community of Hide-A-Way Lake to the same level as all other Utility Authority customers. The changes also increase the charge imposed to all customers for usage over the minimum.
Before the rates were adjusted, HAWL resident Skip Cameron addressed the board again to request they reconsider adopting the new rate structure.
If the board decided they had to move forward with the increase, Cameron asked the board to instead impose a 2.5 percent increase.
The matter was up for consideration at last month’s meeting, but the board tabled it to give Executive Director Ray Scott time to go over some of the points made by Cameron at the last meeting.
Thursday, the board took the matter off the table, and approved it. The only member of the board to vote against the increase was Billy Spiers. Before the increase was officially approved, each board member shared their opinion. Just about all of the board members said bringing the HAWL customers to the same rate structure as every other Utility Authority customer was the right thing to do.
Before the rate change, HAWL residents were paying $24.25 for 4,000 gallons of wastewater treatment. Now, all customers will pay $29.75 for 3,000 gallons of wastewater treatment.
Residents who use more than the minimum of 3,000 gallons will be charged $3 for each additional 1,000 gallons instead of the previous overage charge of $2.50.
Scott said the overage charge will only affect heavy users.
Tap fees also increased as part of the new rate structure. Scott said those changes were made to bring the cost in line with what the Utility Authority pays to conduct that work.
Water fees were not changed, Scott said.
Scott said the additional revenue collected from HAWL residents will help the Utility Authority maintain their grinder pumps. About 880 homes in that subdivision are connected to the system and each one has a grinder pump. The lifespan on the equipment is between 12 to 15 years. Scott estimates it will take about that long to put aside enough money for the Utility Authority to replace them as they break down.
During discussion of the matter Spiers agreed that all customers should be paying the same, but expressed concern on why a rate increase was needed when according to his assessment of the Utility Authority’s financials all of the bills are being paid. Scott said a five year analysis of the financials shows that within two and half years the board would be losing money.
In another matter, New Arbor Lake developer John Gordon approached the board about taking over the wastewater lagoon in the subdivision. There are currently 27 homes in the subdivision, and the system has been designed to accommodate up to 150.
Gordon said the system works by utilizing a septic tank at each home, and the affluent from each tank is then transported to the lagoon where it is further treated before being discharged to the creek. He said he is willing to continue some of the maintenance, such as the lawn around the lagoon.
The board asked Scott to form a written proposal so they can take it under advisement at the next meeting.
The next meeting will be April 21 at 2 p.m. in the boardroom at the Picayune treatment plant on Neal Road.