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Water, sewer tap fees to increase
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The Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority is raising its fees May 1 on the most common residential water and sewer taps, a move executive director Mike Hopkins said accurately reflects real costs in today’s market.

The change will not affect current customers and has nothing to do with monthly water and sewer rates, but will affect new construction and existing residents choosing public utilities over their wells or septic tanks.

Taps are the connection points where a home or business sewer line connects to a public sewer line. The fee pays for the cost of laying down pipe to reach the property, which could include boring under roads, and installing the tap and meter; the updated fees were based on a consultant’s analysis of the Newton County system.

The fees for a 3/4-inch residential water meter have been consolidated and this size meter will cost $2,951 as of May 1.

Three-fourths inch is the most common size meter. The cost used to be $2,730 for the majority of these meters, though a discount was given in subdivisions where some infrastructure had already been installed ahead of time. The cost for these subdivision hookups used to be $2,355.

The new fee for a 1-inch residential water meter will be $3,082, an increase of $172.

The new cost for a residential sewer meter will be $3,650, an increase of $50.

Finally, the costs for 2-inch residential meters, which are very rare, actually decreased significantly to $3,221. The cost used to be $3,745 or $4,870 depending on how much piping had to be laid to get to the house.

The fees had not changed since May 1, 2007.

"The consultant said these costs are simpler and more realistic… We said let’s see the numbers (from the analysis) and we’ll live with the numbers," Hopkins said Friday, noting that material costs had increased, as well as gasoline costs.

New regulations are requiring taps and meters to be made out of more expensive lead-free brass, Hopkins said.

There is a new composite material meter hitting the market and the water authority is field-testing the material, with the concern being whether the material can hold up to extreme heat and cold.

The tap fees, when combined with water sales, also have to allow the authority to make enough money to make infrastructure repairs to its extensive system of pipes over the years.

Hopkins said the authority completed more than $20 million worth of expansion projects in the last 10 years and is still paying off much of that debt.

Business is and continues to be way down since the housing market collapsed in 2007–2008. During the housing boom, the water authority was selling around 150–200 meters a month; last year, it sold around 50 for the entire year.

The majority of those sales were people switching over to public water service because of a failing well.

Hopkins said the 43-year-old system of plants and pipes are in great shape, but he said one day a lot of the PVC pipe will have to be replaced.

However, the recent announcement by home developer Crown Communities to build a 211-home subdivision off Harold Dobbs Road is welcoming news for the water authority.

"I think we look forward to seeing people like that come into Newton County. It’s been a long-time coming," Hopkins said.