Porterdale faces water rate hike

PORTERDALE - Water rates may soon increase in Porterdale as the City Council considers the necessity of passing along a wholesale rate increase to consumers.

The City Council discussed the possible rate increase at its June 25 work session. City Manager Tom Fox told council members that the town had received a wholesale rate increase from the Newton County Board of Commissioners and would need to pass that increase along to consumers.

"We wouldn't be doing this if Newton County wasn't raising the rate," he said.

Fox advised the council that the city would need to implement a 10-cents-per-thousand-gallon increase in order to keep the Water Department fiscally sound. That increase, which is less than 2 percent, would cover the cost of the rate increase from the county and operating costs of the Water Department, he said.

Porterdale's current base water rate is $5.65 per 1,000 gallons for residential customers and $6.30 for commercial customers. Sewer rates are $6.22 per 1,000 gallons for residential users and $6.93 per 1,000 gallons for commercial customers. The rates are based on 3,000 gallons minimum usage.

Mayor Bobby Hamby said sewer rates are set at approximately 110 percent of water rates in Porterdale and would probably increase proportionally with the water rates, depending on what the City Council decides to do.

Hamby said that Newton County previously increased wholesale water rates to its customers, but Porterdale did not pass that increase along to consumers.

"The last time the county increased it, we didn't do an increase," Hamby said, "so there are two increases coming. That's the reason it's going to be 10 cents."

Fox told the council that the Water Department must remain fiscally sound in order operate the department and to meet debt service obligations on two loans from the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority. Those GEFA loans - one of which was actually taken out by Newton County in 1993 on behalf of Porterdale - were used to fund water projects for the town. Porterdale makes quarterly payments of $39,300 to Newton County for the first loan and monthly payments of $10,118 to GEFA for the second loan.

Fox said the water rate increase may be on the July regular meeting agenda. That meeting is scheduled for July 6 at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall. A change to the water rate would require a public hearing and an amendment to the city's water rate ordinance.

Hamby said the city is considering implementation of a conservation rate for customers who do not use the minimum 3,000 gallons. However, he said the City Council would not have time to establish a conservation rate before the new rate increase would take effect. He said the city would work toward establishing a rate for low-end users in the future.

Alice Queen can be reached at alice.queen@rockdalecitizen.com.