June 14, 2007

Water, Sewer Rate Hikes Pass, Trash Price Increase Refused

Memphis residents will see a price increase on upcoming utility bills, but the price hike will be lower than proposed by at least one provider.

As expected the Memphis City Council approved a rate increase for both water and sewer services while also increasing the charge for security lights. However the aldermen unanimously declined a proposal from Veolia Environmental Services, the citys trash collection service, seeking a 20-cent increase.

The council voted 4-0 to raise water rates to $0.482 per hundred gallons used beyond the 1,000 gallon minimum which costs $19. The move represented an increase from the original rate of 0.459.

For the average customer that uses 5,000 gallons per month, the price hike would cost $0.92.

Sewer rates saw the minimum increase from $3 to $5 for the first 1,000 gallons with additional charges of $0.173 per 100 gallons of water used.

We cant shy away from this rate increase just because our phones may ring with calls from people unhappy about their higher bills, said Alderman James Parker. We have a responsibility to hand over a better city to those who take this job after us.

Alderman Chris Feeney agreed, noting the city has witnessed its reserves dwindle to the point that the city was looking at deficit budgets in water and sewer if the rate hikes were not approved. He added that looming sewer repairs likely are just the start of upgrades and repairs the city could be faced with down the road.

Instead of waiting for problems we are forced to fix, Id like to see the city be proactive as opposed to reactive, he said. Right now we cant really afford to make any improvements or repairs that could head off future problems. So standing pat ultimately would only hurt us more in the long run.

The council also voted 3-1 to increase the monthly charge for security lights to $7.50 per month. Parker cast the lone no vote.

The council unanimously voted down a request from the trash collection company asking for a price hike from $9.45 to $9.65 per month.

The city is in the first year of a three-year agreement with the collection company, which sited higher costs of fuel, labor, materials and health care in requesting the price hike.

Mayor Gosney pointed out that city honored a similar request a few years earlier when fuel costs skyrocketed. However he noted that the rate never returned to the original level even after gas prices went back down.

The council agreed not to consider a price increase in the initial year of the deal as it was unfair to the competitors that had bid on the service.

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