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City of Covington water rates changing
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The city of Covington is preparing to change its water rates to bring in line the prices that city residents and residents living outside of the city pay. The council is also expected to approve a new water conservation rate schedule.

The council is expected to vote on the proposed changes to the city's water rates at their first meeting in October. They were briefed on the changes at a work session last week.

"We have for a while had a disparity in our water and sewer rates in the fact that people outside of the city pay more than people inside the city," said City Manager Steve Horton, adding it had at one time been permissible because of the scarcity of housing outside of city limits and the higher costs of running water and sewer pipes to those areas.

"In recent years, it's gotten hard to distinguish densities inside the city and outside," Horton said. "This is an opportunity for us to eliminate the disparity in the rates and to also put into place some element of conservation."

Currently customers inside the city are paying a rate of $13.55 for their first 3,000 gallons of water while customers outside the city are paying $14.90. Under the new system, all customers will pay $13.55, according to a fee schedule provided by the city.

"The state has been very adamant about the need for local governments to create some kind of conservation structure," Horton said. "One of the ways you help people meet those reductions is you charge more for more usage."

Today water customers inside the city are charged $4.32 per 1,000 gallons of water after their first 3,000 gallons. Once they have used 50,000 gallons, the price decreases to $3.52.

Under the new schedule, all water customers will be charged $4.32 per 1,000 gallons and $4.75 for any water usage more than 50,000 gallons.

The Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority implemented its own water conservation pricing system earlier this spring.

In other city council news:

The council reviewed changes to the city's purchasing policy ahead of Monday night's vote on the document, which has been expanded from two and a half pages to 50 pages and "deals with everything from sole-provider type vendors to sealed bids." said Horton.

Among the changes to the policy are that department heads on a daily basis will now be able to spend up to $1,000 for department needs, without prior council approval.

The new policy also grants the city manager the ability to approve purchases up to $20,000 without prior mayor and council approval.

Any purchases greater than $20,000 must still be approved by the mayor and council.

• The council also reviewed changes to the city's personnel policy, which among other things changes the city's overtime policy for police and fire department employees. The personnel policy will be voted on Monday.

Currently the city's fire and policy employees can receive overtime after working more than 43 hours a week. Under the new policy, which conforms to federal guidelines, they will only be able to claim overtime after working more than 53 hours.

The change in overtime pay is expected to save the city $80,000 a year.