Porterdale to increase water rates

PORTERDALE -- City residents will see an increase in water and sewer rates in their August bills following a vote by the City Council on Monday night.

The council approved the third and final reading of an amendment to the water and sewer rates ordinance by a vote of 4-1, with Councilwoman Linda Finger opposed.

The rate changes include an amendment to the rate structure that is designed to minimize the impact on customers who use 2,000 gallons of water per month or less.

The rate structure change came from 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.

Porterdale water and sewer rates increased 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.

Under the rate increase, Porterdale will charge residential customers $6.60 per 1,000 gallons per month and $7.27 per 1,000 gallons of sewer per month. Commercial customers will pay $7.25 per 1,000 gallons of water used and $7.98 per 1,000 gallons of sewer. Commercial rates will continue to be based on the 3,000 gallon minimum.

Water and sewer bills with the new rates are expected to be mailed July 23. Payments are due on the fifth day of each month.

According to City Manager Bob Thomson, Porterdale purchases an average of 3.6 million gallons of water per month from Newton County. With the county rate increase, Porterdale's cost of purchasing water increased to $6,372 per month. The city does not sell all of the water it buys from the county, Thomson said, as about 300,000 gallons per month are lost due to issues such as infrastructure problems and leaks.

In addition to generating enough revenue to purchase water from Newton County, Porterdale's water and sewer rates must cover 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.