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Town approves water, sewer increases

Increases for monthly water and sewer rates will be felt by those living within and outside of the Jonesborough town limits starting July 1, which has raised some concerns from residents.
The Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved the second and final reading for increases in water and sewer rates at its called board meeting Monday, June 30.
The board approved an increase to the minimum water bill by $1 across the board. Sewer rates will be increased by 25 percent.
Sam Snapp said although the increases are not huge, he’s retired, so any increases in his bills have an impact on his finances.
“Any person that’s retired doesn’t like to see an increase on anything,” he said.
Since Snapp is on a fixed income, he said he may have to reluctantly give something up to accommodate for the increases. He said no matter if individuals are on a small, medium or large fixed income, adjustments will have to be made.
“Hopefully it all works out,” Snapp said.
This $1 increase will affect 9,125 residential customers and 467 commercial and industrial customers.
Residents living within the town will experience an increase in their minimum monthly billing for the first 1,000 gallons of water from $15.50 to $16.50. It will be $3 per thousand between 1,001 to 5,000 gallons of water.
The board also passed an increase of an extra dollar per thousand gallons for customers that use more than 5,000 gallons of water. The new approved rates will include $4 per thousand for more than 5,000 gallons of water used.
The increase will generate $229,032 annually.
Town Administrator Bob Browning said a large percentage of the town’s water customers use an average of 3,700 gallons of water a month.
Jimmy Hall, who lives inside the Jonesborough limits, said the increases in water and sewer rates are reasonable. Although the increases are within reason, he believes there are ways the town could save money and cut out the waste, so prices would not have to be raised.
“We have to live within our means, so should the town,” he said.
Browning said due to the projects the town is undertaking to tackle high pressure water areas, the board passed a $2 increase for residents living outside of the town limits for their minimum monthly water bills. The increase will raise the minimum monthly billing from $25.50 to $27.50. It will be $5.35 per thousand for 1,001 to 5,000 gallons, and $6.35 per thousand for more than 5,000 gallons.
The increase for outside customers will generate $317,832 annually.
John Jackson, who lives in the Fall Branch area, said he is not concerned about the increase because the town has to raise money, and taxation is about the only way they can do that.
The increase, Browning said, is the basis to put funding into place to accomplish the goals of fixing the water loss and leak issues in the county.
“We have a good bit of cost and investment replacing lines and cross connections to equalize pressure to reduce water loss and leaks in the areas of the county,” Browning said. “We are working hard to eliminate that water loss in order to not have to expand the treatment plant any earlier than necessary.”
The water treatment plant is currently at over 80 percent of its capacity.
Sewer rates are also being increased, in part, because the town is paying debt services for the $11.5 million improvements made to the sewer system. Browning said the improvements have put the town in good shape for the next 20 to 30 years.
According to town documents, the debt incurred in 2013 and 2014 will be approximately $400,000 annually for the water and sewer improvements that have been made. That debt payment equals about $32,000 per week.
The minimum monthly billing for sewer rates for those living within the town limits of Jonesborough for the first 1,000 gallons is $20.63. The new rates include $3.75 per thousand for 1,001 to 5,000 gallons and $5 per thousand for more than 5,000 gallons.
There are 2,406 sewer customers, 245 of which are commercial and industrial customers.
For those living outside of the town limits, the minimum monthly billing for the first 1,000 gallons is $34.38. The new rates include $6.69 per thousand for 1,001 to 5,000 gallons, and $7.94 per thousand for more than 5,000 gallons.
After a concerned resident spoke about the increase in sewer rates during the public hearing, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen said they would look into possibly setting a flat sewer fee for residents who are not hooked up to the sewer rather than tying it to their water usage.
“I think it’s a legitimate point and suggestion in the future as far as sewer goes,” Mayor Kelly Wolfe said.
The board has the ability to amend the water and sewer rates ordinance in the future if they so choose.
Amanda Nicholson, a resident of Jonesborough, said she has not been completely happy with the water department since moving to the area. She said the second something is fixed, another problem rises causing periodic interruptions in her service when the water is turned off.
Although the increases in water and sewer rates do not make her happy, Nicholson said if the increases eliminate the frequency of interruptions to her water service, that would be a good thing.