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By: Robin Ford Wallacer, Reporter

 

The Dade Water Authority board of directors met briefly on Friday with little on the agenda, but Authority head Doug Anderton and office manager Sherri Walker lingered after the meeting to clarify for the Sentinel coming rate structure changes at the water company.

Anderton explained that with expenses up and the need for additional revenues evident, the board decided not to raise rates as such but rather to lower the maximum gallons covered by the base monthly fee. 

The billing structure for water is geared toward conservation as opposed to “buying in bulk,” so that residential customers are rewarded for using less water, not more. Currently, customers get the first 3,000 gallons of water for a base monthly rate, then pay an extra per-thousand-gallon-price for additional water.  After Dec. 1, they’ll get only 2,000 gallons for that base monthly charge, paying the additional per-thousand-gallon rate for anything over that.

Anderton said the change is designed not just to further conservation but to avoid distressing the most vulnerable customers. “Going to the 2,000 minimum instead of having just a general rate increase all across the county is because the elderly, fixed-income people generally use less than 2,000 gallons,” he said. “Their rate will not change at all.”

How much will customers’ bills go up as a result of the change? First of all, Anderton explained that base rates vary depending on where a customer lives. “There’s three different rates for areas, depending on how many times the water’s pumped,” he said. “If the water is pumped a second time – and it is, to both mountains – then that minimum is a little higher than in the valley, which is a little higher than it is in the city.”

Those base rates are:  in the city, $13.45 for the first 3,000 gallons, $4.60 per thousand gallons thereafter; in the valley, $14.40 for the first 3,000 gallons, $4.70 per thousand gallons thereafter; and on the mountains, $15.65 for the first 3,000 gallons, $4.85 per thousand gallons thereafter.

There are separate rates for three more districts that require additional pumping; Routes 29, 10 and 21 customers pay $16.90 for the first 3,000, $5 per thousand thereafter; Canyon Ridge, $18.15 and $5.15; Flintstone subdivision, $17.85 and $5.95.

As of Dec. 1, the 3,000 minimum changes to 2,000, with the additional charge charged for additional gallons.  Here’s an example Sherri Walker provided:

“Jane Doe uses 5,000 gallons a month and lives on the mountain. At the old rate structure, Jane paid a minimum of $15.65 for the first 3,000 gallons and $4.85 for each 1,000 gallons above the minimum. Her total bill was $25.35.

“Under the new structure with the same usage, Jane will pay a minimum of $15.65 for the first 2,000 gallons and $4.85 for each 1,000 above the minimum. Her total bill will now be $30.20.”

The Sentinel also inquired about another water-related issue: A request by Egypt Hollow residents to extend city water into their neck of the woods. 

“It’s in Tennessee’s lap,” said Ted Rumley, who as Dade County Commission executive chairman also chairs the water board. “We told them what we would do as far as the tap, that we would work with them any way we can. They’re doing the research.” 

Egypt Hollow lies on the state border, with only a handful of houses on the Georgia side but 30 to 40 in Marion County across the Tennessee line. Doug Anderton said that currently Tennessee-side water officials are surveying door to door preparatory to applying for a federal block grant to provide the houses public water in a cooperation between the Dade and Marion County water authorities.

Anderton said that the grant has an income limitation – 70 percent of the households must be of moderate-to-low income – but that the neighborhood should have no problem meeting that requirement.

“I think the issue may be will everybody sign up,” he said. “If they get the required signatures that they’ll take water, they’ll proceed with the grant. It doesn’t mean that they’ll get it, they’ll just proceed with the application. They’ll become grant-eligible, so to speak.”

The Sentinel will continue reporting on this issue as details emerge.


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