Georgia: Water board still taking heat over rates

Georgia: Water board still taking heat over rates

March 25th, 2009 by Beverly Carroll in Georgia

About half a dozen customers on Tuesday told Catoosa Utility Board members to increase their $10-per-month contribution to the utility-paid health insurance and cut their monthly pay.

"I would do it," Amanda Spencer, a Catoosa Election Commission member, said at a board meeting.

Earlier this month, customers revolted when they were notified of a rate change that increased water bills. The board said slow growth and higher costs forced the first rate increase in 10 years, but customer protests forced them to rescind the rate hike.

Utility chairman Jerry Lee is paid $550 per month and the other four members receive $400 per month. The board meets twice a month, usually for several hours.

Mrs. Spencer said she receives $100 per meeting and $9 an hour to work during elections and other times.

Mr. Lee defended the board's compensation. He said the board manages a $5 million business and the members are committed to serving consumers clean, good-tasting, affordable water.

"You get what you pay for," Mr. Lee said.

Board members said earlier this month they needed to raise money to significantly improve the utility.

Residential customers paid $9 a month, which included 2,000 gallons of water. They paid $2.73 per 1,000 gallons thereafter. A customer who used 4,000 gallons would pay $15.46.

Under the proposed new rate, the charge would be $9 plus $2.73 for 1,000 gallons. A customer who used 4,000 gallons would pay $19.92.

Board members didn't advise customers in advance of the increase.

"We looked at the $16,000 cost for mailing out an explanation and decided as businessmen, we didn't want to spend that money," board member David Gattis said. "Now if we had it to do over, we probably would."