COVINGTON -- The Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority is adjusting connection fees for residential customers. An increase to tap fees for meter sizes below 2 inches and a decrease for 2-inch meters will go into effect May 1.
The changes apply only to new connections to the water and sewer system, not to monthly water rates, Executive Director Mike Hopkins stressed.
This is the first such adjustment since 2007. Hopkins said the economic downturn that began in 2008 hit most water agencies throughout Georgia hard and as a result of residential and commercial development coming to a halt, most water agencies did not achieve projected revenues in tap fees.
"As with any business or industry, the downturn caused most water agencies to tighten their belts and reconsider future investments in water and sewer infrastructure. NCWSA was not immune from the recession; we postponed projects and trimmed operating budgets to keep our financial house in order while still meeting our obligations of providing safe, dependable drinking water and responsive customer service," Hopkins said.
In 2007, 724 water meters were sold, compared to just 35 in 2012. Pre 2007, tap fee sales were between $2 million and $4 million per year, while the last two years, they were less than $500,000, according to Hopkins.
"Mostly we have been postponing projects or extending them out on the capital improvement plan timeline," Hopkins said. "The Authority in the past funded projects through tap sales or pay as you go. Now the Authority has had to turn to debt to fund necessary projects."
In addition, customers have been using less water following a state mandate to reduce water consumption by 10 percent. Hopkins said customer usage has settled around 20 percent less than it was prior to 2007.
"Just like our water business we know that families have had to tighten their budgets to make ends meet. Despite our loss of monthly revenues that comes with water conservation, we applaud our customers for their stewardship with one of our community's most essential natural resources," he said.
The Authority is anticipating moderate growth in the near future, with Baxter International driving growth due to the limited amount of infrastructure located near Stanton Springs, Hopkins said, but noted that residential development is also picking up with a new subdivision being built in west Newton.
Fees adopted by WASA are: $2,951 for inch meters, an increase of about $409; $3,082 for 1-inch meters, an increase of $172; $3,221 for 2-inch meters, a decrease of $1,087- this size has very little residential application; no change for meters over 2 inches or commercial meters; $3,650, an increase of $50 for sewer.