By Crystal Burns
Rutherford citizens should expect to see a 5% rate increase on their water bills in March.
The Rutherford Board of Aldermen voted 4-0 Jan. 21 to approve the first reading of an ordinance to increase the base with zero usage from $12.45 to $13.45 and the base 38 cents per 100 gallons to 42 cents per 100 gallons. Alderman James Roach was absent.
In order for the ordinance to go into effect, the board must approve it on second reading in February, which would put the rate hike on customers’ March bills.
Initially, Alderperson Broeck Horner made a motion to increase the rate 6% based on the recommendation for Steve Wyatt, a Municipal Task Advisory Service (MTAS) representative who met with city leaders recently. Alderman Danny Parker explained to citizens at the Jan. 21 board meeting that Wyatt advised the board to plan its water and sewer rates for the next three to seven years.
“Water rates are going to have to go up,” Parker said. “We can’t get around it. We’ve got to start planning for this now.”
Parker said his concern is that if the board doesn’t make small, incremental increases, the water fund, which he and Mayor Sandy Simpson said is currently in the black, could dip into the red and garner unwanted attention from the state.
Alderperson Annie Edwards, who seconded Horner’s original motion, said her bill figured with the 6% increase would go up $1.80.
“It sounds like a lot when you say 6%, but it’s less than $2,” Simpson said.
Sewer rates will remain the same.
After discussion, the board opted to start with a 5% increase, which Water/Sewer Supervisor Eddie Watkins recommended. Horner and Edwards rescinded their motion and second respectively, and Parker made the motion to increase the base rate by $1.00 and the usage rate by 5 cents per 100 gallons. Alderman Mike Hensley made the motion, and all aldermen voted to pass the first reading.