Beulah residents wary of utilities merger - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Beulah residents wary of utilities merger

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(WTVM) -

Members of the Beulah community gathered Tuesday evening to get the facts about a potential merger of Beulah Utility District and the East Alabama Fire and Water District.

"Six month ago we wanted to have a town meeting to get some of this information out and we realized it was a little premature because we didn't know all of this was going to come together. Most of the pieces are coming together so we can answer questions," explains Lee County Commissioner, Robert Ham.

The merger has been over two years in the making, but came as a surprise to the community after saying they learned about it three weeks ago.

"I have 6,000 signatures from the community against this a so called merger," says Beulah resident, James Hudmon.

Hugh Dicks of the Beulah Utility District says the merger has been discussed in public works meetings which are open to the public.

"Anytime we have a meeting it is open to the public and we have to announce it before hand. The merger was out in the public long before we made a concrete decision that this is what we wanted to do."

Dicks also says combining the two entities would give the area 9,000 costumers and it would be a more efficient system eliminating the duplication of services.

However, residents are concerned that there would be a loss of control by Lee County and shifted to Chambers County and fire and water rates would increase.

Businesses would be charged by square foot rather than a flat rate.

"As a business owner, they would charge us .49 cents a square foot for our business. Say you have a 4,000 square foot building there's no way we can afford that water bill," says Beulah resident, Lisa Bland.

"If you look forward into the future and said what if we stayed the same," says Dicks, "Beulah would still have to increase rates."

The Chambers County Commission and the City of Valley have unanimously passed the merger.

Residents are asking to delay the Lee County Commission's decision to learn more about the merger.

Officials hope for it to take affect November 1, 2013.

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