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Roswell water rate fees to increase in 2015
by James Swift
jswift@neighbornewspapers.com
September 03, 2014 10:57 AM | 1251 views | 1 1 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Residents who get their water services through the city of Roswell can expect to pay more next year. Last week, the city council voted unanimously to approve an 8 percent water rate increase, which will take effect January.

City Director of Finance Keith Lee said the average Roswell customer can anticipate a $1.84 per month increase in 2015, followed by a “less than 40 cents per month” increase from 2016 to 2019. The city’s water system serves a little over 14,000 people. Usage fees were last adjusted in 2008.

Lee expects “significant revenues” will cover the costs of systems operations and debt services related to the new water treatment plant. However, he also pinpointed several items that could “impact the sustainability of the fund” — among them, rising salary and benefits costs and inflationary increases for utilities and other supplies.

“The city has a capital improvement plan that’s about $500,000 a year for ongoing maintenance of our distribution system that we need to continually fund,” Lee said. “It’s just like being at home — our grocery bills go up, our costs of materials and supplies goes up.”

Water fund revenue for the 2015 fiscal year is projected to be $3.6 million, with roughly $3 million in operating costs. Revenue is expected to steadily increase to $3.7 million in 2019, with operating costs fluctuating from $2.7 million in 2016 to $2.8 million five years from now.

“We’ve created a system in which the revenues should grow at the same pace as our expenditures,” he said.

Lee said the city has a tiered conservation system in place. “For the first 10,000 gallons, each thousand gallons is ‘x’ amount of dollars,” he explained. “But anything between 10,000 and 20,000 gallons is ‘2x’ dollars.”

The function, he said, was to encourage residents to refrain from using water in “non-required fashions.” The measure, Lee added, was a mandate from the Atlanta Regional Commission.

With the fee increase, a Roswell customer billed for 7,000 gallons would pay about $40 a month next year. Today, a Fulton County customer using the same amount is charged less than $25.

“In Fulton County, they certainly have a lot more customers than we do, but in many instances there are people who have more customers than they have and the rates are higher,” Lee said. “Generally, our rates are very competitive in the market, compared to surrounding counties.”

Lee said 86 percent of Roswell water customers use less than 7,000 gallons per month. An estimated 5 percent of customers use in excess of 10,000 gallons monthly.

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Lee Fleck
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September 05, 2014
Fulton County produces nearly 100 million gallons of water per day and has the lowest water rates in the metro area. Fulton County water rates were reduced by 5 percent a year ago. Yet the City of Roswell, which will produce a fraction of the amount produced by Fulton County, has saddle their very small customer base with astronomical long-term debt. The 15 percent of Roswell citizens who get their water from the City of Roswell have been stuck with over $32 million of debt over the next 20 years.

In addition to the new $15 million water plant, the water distribution grid is also an integral part of the Water Enterprise Fund. The City’s Water Department now projects an additional $500,000.00 per year to maintain & upgrade the water distribution system, as well as cover additional costs in the future. State law requires that the city’s water customers fund the entire city water system.

The pathetic reality is that the Wood administration and the Roswell City Council knew about these cost figures in July 2010 nearly three years before they deceived the City’s water customers into agreeing to build a new water plant. This administration intentionally failed to inform their customers of these astronomical additional costs to maintaining hundreds of miles of the existing water distribution system during public meetings they held when they were promoting the need for a new water plant.

Stu Moring, Roswell’s recently retired City Environmental and Public Works Director eventually admitted a little over a year ago, AFTER the decision to establish a $15 million loan to secure the funds to build the new water plant:

“The planned replacement of the city’s aging water plant will bump those rates a bit higher... We don’t have an actual rate plan established for the future, but we do expect costs to increase about 1.5 to 2 percent per year, so at some point rates will need to cover that.

I am sorry to state the fact that as far back as 2010, according to a complete financial analysis conducted by Grisham, Smith and Partners, the engineering consultants retained by the City of Roswell to conduct the Water Master Plan that these recent rate increases were provided. Mr. Moring’s public statement was simply a reaffirmation of that extensive analysis conducted in 2010 stating an annual water rate increase of 2 percent PER YEAR to maintain the entire water system through 2040.

It will be interesting to see if the projected half a million dollars annually savings from not purchase water from Fulton County will materialize as anticipated considering the reality that the new 3 million gallon water plant will only provide enough water for existing demand and not provide the needs for the development underway to replace the Frazier Street apartments, as well as, the Groveway project.

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