Columbus Water Works proposes plan to increase rates over five years

Updated: Oct. 27, 2020 at 11:26 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Columbus residents could see their water bills increase annually for the next five years in a proposed plan Columbus Water Works presented to city council Tuesday night.

This comes as customers saw an increase in their bill at the start of this year based on meter sizes.

Columbus Water Works officials said they updated the water base cost this year to be more in line with industry standards across the state depending on the meter size.

The proposed plan would increase water bills across the board. According to the presentation, this would help fund future operating and infrastructure needs.

“Maintaining those annual minimum increases really helps to keep the long-term costs to customers and to rate payers lower than it would be if we waited a year or two, or three," said Joe Crea with Raftelis, a consulting firm.

The presentation proposes a 3.75 percent rate increase in 2021. Crea said to offset this increase, they would increase low income credit by $1 a month to $8.50.

For customers with a meter that is 5/8″ or 3/4″, that would increase their water base charge by $0.31 cents to $8.62. Customers with a 10″ meter would see an increase of $18.01 next year.

The impact of the increase on the total bill of water and sewer service ranges from $1.28 to more than $2.00 a month.

“If you’re kind of in the typical range and you use about 4,500 gallons per month, or 6 CCF, that impact is right at a dollar 82," Crea explained.

Several councilors, including Councilor Walker Garrett, said now is not the right time for this rate increase due to COVID-19.

“I respectfully would ask that this be delayed until next year. I understand that there will be more costs. I fully get that, but we might possibly have a second wave of COVID. We have businesses and individuals who are still struggling to recover," Garrett said.

Columbus resident Sharon Bunn first appeared before council in January, sharing her concerns with the charges based on meter size. She appeared again Tuesday night with a petition that has 73 signatures.

Columbus Water Works will be holding a virtual town hall on Wednesday, Nov. 4 at noon to discuss rate increases. The Water Works president said they will take the recommendations from the town hall and Tuesday’s meeting back to their board Nov. 16.

The Columbus Water Works Board will have to approve this proposal. The mayor does serve on the Water Works Board.

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