Vote expected on Porterdale water

PORTERDALE - The first and second readings of an ordinance to increase water and sewer rates in the city were heard Monday night by the City Council.

The proposed ordinance changes reflect an increase in wholesale water rates passed along to Porterdale from the Newton County Board of Commissioners, which sells water to the town.

City Manager Tom Fox advised the council in June that the city would need to implement a 10-cents per thousand gallon water rate 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.

Under the new rates, residential customers will be charged $5.75 per 1,000 gallons of water and $6.33 per 1,000 gallons for sewage treatment; commercial customers will pay $6.40 per 1,000 gallons of water and $7.04 per 1,000 gallons of sewage treatment. Sewage rates are set at approximately 110 percent of the water rates. All rates are based on a 3,000-gallon minimum.

Several citizens at the meeting objected to the water rate increase, particularly during the current economic conditions. However, Mayor Bobby Hamby said the city has no choice but to pass along the wholesale rate increase from the county.

"I guarantee there is no one sitting at this table that wants to increase water rates," he said. "We've got to do it to provide water to the citizens."

Fox previously told the council that the Water Department must remain fiscally sound in order to 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.

The council is expected to vote on the rate increases at its next regular meeting Aug. 3.

The council also heard the first and second readings of an ordinance that would allow licensing of wine cafes where wine and beer can be sold for on-premises consumption.

Under provisions of the ordinance, a wine cafe would be required to have a full service kitchen, provide seating for at least 25 people, generate 20 percent of its gross income from food sales, serve 25 different types of wine from 10 different providers, and must pay an annual license fee of $500 to the city. A wine cafe could not generate more than 1 percent of its gross income from beer sales and would not be allowed to sell lottery tickets, gasoline or tobacco products.

In addition to on-premises sales, a wine cafe would be allowed to sell wine by the bottle.

The council is expected to vote on the wine cafe ordinance on Aug. 3.

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