All Hamilton County sewer customers can expect to pay about $10 more per year for sewer service, while about 24,000 of them can add $96 per year for repair work to their lines, the county’s Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority decided Wednesday.
In a 7-5 vote at a board meeting, the authority approved a 6 percent rate increase for its customers. For an average customer who uses about 3,000 gallons of water per month, the increase would mean about $10 more per year, board Chairman Henry Hoss said.
The rate increase goes into effect immediately.
In two different May meetings, the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority approved a repair plan that includes an $8 monthly fee for 24,000 gravity sewer customers. After questions arose from officials and the public, the board voted to delay implementation of the fee and to hold several public meetings to explain the program.
But some board members said they were blindsided by the proposed rate increase.
“The first I heard of this was this morning,” Soddy-Daisy Mayor and authority board member Bob Privett said.
Mr. Privett and four others voted against the budget that includes the rate increase, which first was brought to board members at an informational meeting Tuesday.
Wayne Hamill, who represents Red Bank on the authority board, also voted against the increase, calling it “cold and callous” to vote in an increase without spending some time informing the public about it. He moved to table the budget to allow time for board members to inform the public, but the motion did not pass.
Mr. Hoss said the increase is needed to stem a $300,000 shortfall the authority is facing in the coming budget year. Additional costs for water treatment at Chattanooga’s Moccasin Bend Sewage Treatment Plant, personnel and asset depreciation led to the shortfall, he said.
He said the authority also would increase the fee it charges customers to tie on to the sewer system. He said the cost would depend on the size of the sewer line.
The rate increase would raise public ire, Mr. Privett argued, not because of the need for more revenue but because it was passed so quickly. He said it would cause the same type of outcry as the $8 monthly fee the board also set into motion Wednesday.
In a 9-3 vote, the board voted to amend its rules and regulations to include the fee plan. After amending its rules, the board voted to move forward with the fee plan. The fee will begin showing up on customers’ bill in about 60 days, said Robin Derryberry of Derryberry Public Relations, which represents the authority.
The fee, which only would affect gravity sewer customers, would pay for inspection and repairs of lines that connect homes to the main sewer line. The authority is under order from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to reduce the amount of rainwater getting into the system through cracks and openings.
The authority serves the cities of Red Bank, Soddy-Daisy, Lookout Mountain, Signal Mountain, East Ridge, Lakeside and Ridgeside. It also provides sewer service to several unincorporated areas of the county.