Porterdale mulls water rate restructure

PORTERDALE -- A proposed change to the town's water rate structure would minimize the impact of a rate increase on customers who use 2,000 gallons per month or less.

The council heard the first and second readings of proposed changes to the water and sewer rate ordinance at a called meeting Thursday night. Councilmembers Robert Foxworth, Arline Chapman and Lowell Chambers approved the readings, while Linda Finger was opposed. Councilman Mike Harper was absent. The third and final reading will be held at the council's July 12 meeting.

The council also discussed a proposal by City Manager Bob Thomson to reduce the minimum usage for which residential customers are billed from 3,000 gallons per month to 2,000 gallons per month.

"It doesn't impact the budget because we have approximately 60 accounts that use the 2,000 minimum," Thomson said, adding that customers who use more than 2,000 gallons per month would make up the difference under the proposed rate increase.

Porterdale water and sewer rates are increasing due to an increase in the wholesale cost of water from Newton County, the town's water supplier.

Newton County increased its wholesale water rates by 18 cents per 1,000 gallons on July 1, increasing Porterdale's rates from $1.59 per thousand gallons to $1.77. Sewer rates are set at 110 percent of water rates under a city ordinance and will increase accordingly.

Porterdale's current monthly charge for a minimum 3,000 gallons of water is $17.25 for residential customers. With the increase in the wholesale water rate, the minimum charge will be $19.80. Sewer rates will increase from $18.99 per month to $21.81, based on minimum water usage. With the proposed increases, the total charge for water and sewer, based on minimum usage, will be $41.61 per month, an increase of $5.37. The rates are based on 3,000 gallons minimum usage.

However, if the proposed change to the water rate structure is approved, customers who use 2,000 gallons of water or less per month will be charged $13.20 per month for water and $14.54 per month for sewage treatment, a savings of $13.87 per month.

City Clerk Judy Johnson said Porterdale's average customer uses more than 3,000 gallons per month, but less than 5,000.

Finger said she was in favor of the change, adding that it would benefit senior citizens in the community.

The council also discussed the need to explore establishing rates that escalate as water usage increases.

"Conservation rates eventually will be mandatory," said Mayor Bobby Hamby. "I think we ought to be working toward that."