Season’s greetings from PTC's WASA: Big sewer bills
Nearly 10,000 people in Peachtree City are likely to get some sticker shock this week when they open their December water bills.
While the water rates are not going up, the city’s sewer rates are going up significantly, as most residential customers will pay an extra $20 a month or more.
The increase was approved in October by the Peachtree City Water and Sewer Authority, which has lost revenue the past several years because of reduced water usage but needs money for capital improvements to keep the sewer system intact, officials said.
WASA General Manager Stephen Hogan said he is expecting to get more phone calls once customers get their bills this week. But so far, he said, there have not been a large number of calls about the rate increase.
The sewer rate increase includes a minimum $26 “base” bill on top of a $4.65 charge for each 1,000 gallons of water used, down from the $4.83 per 1,000 gallons currently charged.
Non-residential customers will also face a rate increase Dec. 1, paying the new $26 base fee and with a per 1,000 gallons increase from $5.35 to $6.15.
The $26 base fee, Hogan said, will raise enough money each year to cover the authority’s annual $3.24 million debt service payment.
WASA warned customers of the rate increase through an insert in the November water bills.
Although the bills are sent from and collected by the Fayette County Water System, the county-owned water system has no connection with WASA and no power to either raise or lower sewer rates. It acts only as a billing and collection agent for WASA.
Here’s how the rate increase breaks down based on the majority of usage in the city. Single-family homes that use:
• 1,000 gallons will pay $10.65 more a month, a 53 percent increase;
• 2,000 gallons will pay $15.30 more a month, a 76 percent increase;
• 3,000 gallons will pay $19.95 more a month, a 100 percent increase;
• 4,000 gallons will pay $24.60 more a month, a 123 percent increase;
• 5,000 gallons will pay $25.10 more a month, a 103 percent increase;
• 6,000 gallons will pay $24.92 more a month, an 86 percent increase ; and
• 7,000 gallons will pay $24.74 more a month, a 73 percent increase.
The increases also take affect on residential customers who use more. The authority serves 9,966 residential customers.
When WASA voted 4-1 to approve the rate increase at its October meeting, it was noted that in addition to seeing revenues dip due to reduced water usage, the authority has been unable to replace one of its largest customers, Photocircuits, a production facility in the industrial park that closed several years ago.
WASA had been using its reserves to weather the shortfalls, but they have dwindled down to about $1 million, and Hogan said in October that he didn’t want to further spend from the reserves.
WASA’s budget this year includes money for capital improvements which have languished on hold the past several years due to the reduced revenues, officials said.
Included in new capital improvements for the system this year is a $224,000 program to rehabilitate sewer pipe in the Wynnmeade subdivision, one of the city’s oldest, and also to replace sewer pipe near the Shiloh Mobile Home Park where a pipe failed several months ago.
The Peachtree City Council, and particularly Councilman Eric Imker, have expressed some concern about the fee hikes, but while WASA members are appointed by council, it is a separate entity from the city.
WASA maintains full autonomy over nearly all sewer system decisions except for projects that would provide sewer access outside the city limits. Those such projects are required to gain approval from the Peachtree City Council before going forward.
In fact, WASA members have pointed to several large projects that the City Council has turned down which would have eased WASA’s financial crunch.
Several years ago, the city of Senoia requested to use some of WASA’s extra sewer capacity, 500,000 gallons a day, for which WASA would have been paid a $3 million one-time fee and an additional $50,000 a month.
The Peachtree City Council turned that overture down based on concerns it was enabling further growth in Senoia. The end result was that Senoia went for its own water treatment plant and got a permit to treat up to 2 million gallons a day, some four times the capacity Senoia initially wanted from WASA.