Brundidge considers sewer, water rate changes

Published 3:09 am Wednesday, November 5, 2014

BRUNDIDGE – A rejected grant application and a recommendation to increase sewage and water rates have Brundidge City Council members considering how they will proceed with plans to improve the city’s sewage infrastructure.

Britt Thomas, city manager, told the council on Tuesday that the city had been notified that it did not receive a $350,000 grant which would have helped offset the costs of a $1.9 million sewage and water infrastructure improvement project.

“We have to decide if we’re going to go ahead and proceed with the project in full, or do it in parts and apply for the grant again next year,” Thomas told the council.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The project includes plans to upgrade a 4-inch line from Southern Classic Foods as well as repair lines and pumping stations that have been in place since the 1960s, Thomas said. “The city will have to borrow a portion of the costs – about $1.5 million – to pay for the project, and we were hoping to get this grant to offset the remainder of the cost,” he said.

Max Mobley of Polyengineering Inc. also met with the council and updated members on the project. He said plans call for installing a new sewer line from Southern Classic Foods to main discharge area in woods off Wilkins Street. In doing so, the line will have to be placed on Sixth Street and he recommends installing it on the side of the road near the curb, so patching will be minimal. He said he anticipates no problems in placing the line along John Lewis Drive or across Galloway and the park.

“When we get to Wilkins, though, the upper part of Wilkins is in the same shape as Sixth Avenue. What I want to do is ago ahead and put the sewer line in the street and resurface the street,” he said, adding that the resurfacing will benefit residents. “I think we’re going to solve more than one problem by extending this line.”

Mobley also offered some history and context on the city’s wastewater treatment system, which was expanded in the 1990s to provide capacity for a city of 30,000 residents. Mobley said the council members had recouped the capital and operating costs through the years by changing usage-based rates to industries with heavy loads and by passing along incremental rate increases to all users.

“When we took a look at the rates in 2003, the rate increase we were facing was going to be pretty sporty,” he said. “It was sporty enough that the council decided to take the increase in phases over five years. In 2009, we looked at it again and the sewer was good but we had lost a good bit of revenue in water so we had a 55 percent increase in water rates.”

Five years later, he said, usage has increased in some areas, thanks to new customer such as Air-Chem in Ariton, which trucks wastewater into the treatment facility, but has declined in others, such as the loss of nearly $60,000 a year in revenue from leachate from the now-shuttered Brundidge Landfill.

“We’re seeing some declines in net revenue, and if we had done the 2.9 percent increase in 2013 and 2014, we would be facing this problem,” he said. “But right now, if we don’t do something, we’re going to drop below the zero-line in 2016, and that’s not a good year for a big rate increase.”

Instead, Mobley recommended the city council consider a 2.9 percent rate increase effective Jan. 1, 2015, and again Jan. 1, 2016, to offset expected revenue shortfalls. “That would change the basic sewer charge for an individual from $11.37 to $12.04, and the usage rates per 1,000 gallons from $3.01 to $3.23,” he said. “The average customer uses about 5,000 gallons.” Council members didn’t take action on either consideration.

In other business

• Council members authorized Thomas to spend up to $40,000 in an auction to purchase up to three used vehicles to replace existing city vehicles. The vehicles are surplus state vehicles.

• Approved a policy outlining the procedures for purchasing and procurement. Thomas said the policy is simply a written document detailing the practices already used by the city.

• Heard from Mayor Jimmy Ramage, who invited council members and their constituents to attend a “Monday with the Mayor” at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 10 at Pike County High School. “”I’m going to answer questions and talk about the city,” he said.

“It’s not a political thing.”