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Water rates on the rise across county
Aug 28, 2006 12:00 am
More than 6,000 customers of the Water and Wastewater Authority of Wilson County will likely see rate hikes similar to those seen in Lebanon because of the Cedar City's sewer rehabilitation project.
While no decision will be made until the Authority's board meets in September, Executive Director Eddie Harris said Thursday he anticipates as much as a 5-percent annual hike.
The Water Authority buys the vast majority of its water from Lebanon.
He said this is to compensate for the rate hike imposed by the city – its stated purpose being largely to fund a $20 million sewer repair project mandated by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
Starting Oct. 1, the authority will be charged $1.82 per thousand gallons, and will see an annual increase of 3 percent for the next five years.
Harris said while board members may choose to go with a different rate choice, something will have to be done to accommodate its cost increase.
"Lebanon hands the rate down to us, and we have to, in turn, raise the rates to our customers," Harris said. "(But) we have some options as to what we can do."
Harris said the authority purchases about 98 percent of its water from Lebanon, with the rest trickling in from Gladeville, Murfreesboro and Smithville.
"The way our system's built, Lebanon would have to be our major supplier," Harris said. "The only other option we would have is to build a water plant, and at this particular point in time, that's not feasible for us.
"It's going to have to be done. We can't absorb this rate without passing it on to our customers. It's just the cost of doing business."
He said he still wants to propose to the board an average rate which would create one large increase rather than incremental increases over five years.
Harris added sewer rates would not be affected.
For the city of Lebanon, about 10 percent of the city's water revenue comes from utility districts, according to Lebanon City Finance Commissioner Hal Bittinger.
He noted the water authorities and utility districts pay less than residential and even industrial users.
"We sell them (water authorities) hundreds of thousands of gallons through one meter," Bittinger said. "… The price is higher per household because we have the cost of running each individual (water) line. The more you use, the cheaper you get."
Other utilities in the county do not rely on Lebanon to nearly the degree Wilson County's Water Authority does, and none expect a rate increase as a result of the impending hikes in Lebanon.
West Wilson and Gladeville buy hardly any water from Lebanon. LaGuardo Utility District General Manager Joey Hardin, whose water district buys about a third of its water from Lebanon, said no increase is planned at this time. Watertown's utility district pumps its water entirely from wells.
Gladeville Utility District, which purchases about 10 percent of its water from Lebanon, is working on a new water tank which, combined with its water plant, should eliminate the purchase entirely.
"We're building a new tank and we've built a new pumping station," General Manager Clifford Walker said. "Before the first of the year we're probably not going to get anything from them. …We would have been self-sufficient before but for an elevation problem."
Staff Writer Jason Cox can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 45 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.