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Springfield to take a look at raising water, sewer rates
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The Springfield City Council will hold a public hearing on water and sewer rates May 22 at its second monthly council meeting.

The city’s last rate increase on water and sewer rates was 11 years ago, according to Councilman Dennis Webb. Since then, inflation has increased the costs the city incurs for water and sewer treatment, he said.

“We’ve also come under some outside pressure from the state to come up with a tiered rate system that would discourage people from using unnecessary water,” Webb said. “That pressure is heating up.”

Webb said he does not have the ability to run a computer model on the rates and has been working to chart the changes by hand.

Webb said he would not recommend adopting changes at the meeting, but holding a public hearing and then taking action on the rate changes.

“What we will do before we get to a public hearing is come up with a chart where we chart the current price and the proposed increase price on a per 1000 gallons.”

Webb said the rate for a “minimum user,” or someone who uses 2,000 gallons a month or less, would increase by $1.

Councilman Kenny Usher said the water and sewer department lost $59,719 last year and asked Webb what the rates would need to be to ensure the department breaks even.

Webb said he did not have a way to run the entire billing cycle, and by his best estimate the average customer would see an increase of $5 to $7. He said he used his water bill to check the increase.

“I average about 5,200 gallons a month. That would put me in the upper 50 percent of users,” Webb said. “We have about 500 users that use over 5,000 gallons, and I would be in that bracket. It would take mine from $29.40 to $41.90. It would increase mine by $12.50 a month.

“That’s a pretty substantial increase except that we haven’t gone up since 1996,” Webb said. “If you look at (the rate changes) in those terms. That’s not much of an increase.”  

He also pointed out that Springfield handles Guyton’s sewer and charges that city as a commercial customer. Under the rates for a commercial customer outside the city limits, Guyton’s bill would increase by more than $2,000 a month.

“I’ve forewarned them that we were going to be doing this,” Webb said. “I don’t pretend this is the perfect rate system.”

Public Works Director Lowell Morgan said it would be good for the water and sewer department to have a fund for repairs.

“I think what the auditors are saying is there should have some replacement account and there should be some money in that coffer,” he said. “Some of our stuff is getting old and it’s subject to break.”

Usher said the rates should be reconsidered regularly.

“This should be part of the budget process,” Mayor Barton Alderman said.

Alderman also said the state Environmental Protection Division is urging municipalities to adopt tiered rate structures.

“Guyton did it about a year ago,” he said. “This is part of what EPD recommends as a conservation. In the past, the more you used, the less it costs. Now the more you use, the more it’s going to cost.”

Webb asked to give the council a month to let Springfield residents know what the council is considering. The public hearing regarding the rate increase will be at 7 p.m. on May 22.