Goshen water rates not highest

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Goshen Town Council voted for a water-rate increase in its meeting last week, but even with that increase, the town’s residents aren’t paying the most for water in Pike County.

But, they aren’t paying the least either.

The city of Troy currently has the lowest water rates in Pike County and has not increased its rates since October of 2007.

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After Goshen’s vote last week, residents will see an increase in its water rates from $8.50 for the first 2,000 gallons to $10.50 for using the same amount.

While the rates did increase, they are still comparable to the city of Brundidge’s rates and much less than those of the Pike County Water Authority.

Every additional 1,000 gallons over the initial 2,000 gallons cost $2.25 in Goshen, bringing the cost of 5,000 gallons of water to $17.25.

Once a 4 percent state tax is imposed, the bill for 5,000 gallons of water in Goshen would cost $17.94.

In Brundidge, the total cost for that same amount of water is $17.11.

Brundidge charges its customers $8.65 every month just to have an active water account, plus an additional $1.56 for every 1,000 gallons.

The Pike County Water Authority, meanwhile, charges its customers $32.50 for 5,000 gallons of water.

The cost of 5,000 gallons of water in Troy is just $6.76 in all, with the first 3,000 gallons costing $5 and every additional 1,000 gallons costing 75 cents.

While the discrepancy between the rates of the Pike County Water Authority and the municipalities in Pike County may seem excessive, officials said the rate the Water Authority charges is necessary.

“One thing you have to take into consideration is that we have over 700 miles of pipe. We only have five to seven customers per mile,” said Stephanie Blackmon, general manager of the Pike County Water Authority. “We bill around 3,600 customers per month, whereas the city bills 10,000, so our rates have to be a little bit higher.”

Brundidge City Manager Brit Thomas agreed the higher rates were not excessive.

“It’s not apples and apples. You can’t compare Pike County Water Authority to the city of Brundidge or the City of Troy,” Thomas said.

The Water Authority also had to increase its rates on March 1 due to increased costs of supplies.

“We have to maintain a certain debt-to-income ratio. If the ratio is thrown off, our bonds can mandate a rate increase. Our ratio got thrown off recently because gas and supplies went up in price due to inflation,” Blackmon said. “Gas prices are great right now compared to where they were last year, but none of our other materials that we need have gone back down in price.”

While rate increases are rare in other parts of the county, Brundidge increases its rates by a small amount every year.

“Our city council put in an inflation clause because we didn’t raise the rates for about 15 years. We started that in 2005 and now we raise the rates by 2.9 percent every year on January 1,” Thomas said.

While the yearly increase may be the approach Brundidge employs, the Water Authority does not see itself using that approach in the future.

“My only regret is that we went up so much at one time. We could have gone up in small increments, but nobody wants a rate increase every year,” Blackmon said.