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Kristen Swing

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Jonesborough water, sewer fees set for spike

June 23rd, 2014 8:48 pm by Kristen Swing

Jonesborough water, sewer fees set for spike

Water and sewer customers of the town of Jonesborough will likely see an increase on their monthly bill in the next fiscal year, which is set to begin July 1.

At a called meeting Monday morning, members of the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved, on first reading, rate increases for both water and sewer customers. How much of an increase customers will see on their monthly bills will depend largely on whether they live inside or outside of town limits.

For water customers living inside Jonesborough city limits, their minimum bills will increase by $1 per month, from $15.50 to $16.50. Water customers living outside the city will incur a $2-per-month increase, taking the minimum bill from $25.50 per month to $27.50 per month.

Leaders also approved an increase of $1 per month for every 1,000 gallons of water a customer uses above 5,000 gallons per month. That charge will, for the most part, only impact commercial and industrial customers, as residential customers use an average of 3,700 gallons per month, leaders said.

Sewer rates, which are directly linked to the water rates, will also increase.

Currently, customers pay the same rate for sewer service as they do for water service. That ratio will change, however, with the BMA’s approval Monday to increase sewer rates by 25 percent.

The new sewer rates will be $20.63 per month for those living inside town limits and $34.37 per month for those living outside of town limits.

“Let’s strike the right balance here between living hand-to-mouth and going overboard with a rate increase,” Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe said in discussing the proposed rate hikes.

The increases come on the heels of major infrastructure improvements for both departments, including significant upgrades to waterlines outside of town and a new, $11.5 million sewer plant.

“When I was elected almost six years ago, we had a very, very, very different situation when it came to our sewer than we do today and we had a very different situation as far as our water system goes,” Wolfe said. “The state of infrastructure in the town of Jonesborough, as far as water and sewer, I believe is probably the best it has ever been, at least in my lifetime.”

The town was under a state order to fix ongoing problems with its sewer system and also was tasked with reducing its water loss that was being caused, in large part, by old, leaky water pipes.

Wolfe lauded town staff for garnering the new sewer plant at a cost of a little more than half its actual price tag.

“When you have $5.5 million of that cost covered through grants and the other $6 million in loans, that’s pretty darn good,” Wolfe said. “It’s very important for folks to know that this project was not only desperately needed, but that we have done everything possible to pay for it without increasing customer rates.”

Now, however, the town has to have more funding to pay off its monthly debt related to the projects, Wolfe said.

“We did tough it out this year and we did not have an increase even though it could have been justified,” he noted. “Now, it’s up to us to justify to (customers) asking for more from them.”

The water rate increases will net the town an additional $317,832 per year while the sewer rate increase will garner another $362,052 per year. That money will be used to make monthly payments on the debt incurred for the extensive water and sewer system improvements.

The BMA is expected to hold another called meeting next week to address the rate increases on second reading.

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