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Bond refinancng, water rate hike discussed
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Rockdale Water Authority is in the process of refinancing a nearly $5.5 million bond that currently absorbs 40 percent of all revenue collected by the water department. 

Final terms of bond refinancing will be presented to the authority in a called meeting held just before the Board of Commissioners approves the conditions most likely in March.

However, cash saved from refinancing will be used to bring sewer access to critical commercial areas, such as the former John Deere property, said Water and Sewer Authority Chair Elaine Nash.

Water and Sewer Authority members were also briefed on an existing intergovernmental agreement and requirements regarding tracking assets that none of them had known about before. Essentially, revenues derived from assets purchased with tax-exempt bonds, such as the 2005 99A bonds of about $10 million, need to stay with the organization the bonds were issued to, said Nash. 

“It’s not going to change the way anything works,” she said. As a housekeeping measure, the county and Authority need to keep their assets straight, she explained.

The Water and Sewer Authority had purchased about 550 acres of land for land application of effluent before the EPA prohibited that activity. The county had been looking at possibly turning some of that land, near Union Church Road, into a park. “These are practical questions on management,” she said.


Water rate hike

Water officials will be holding public information sessions in coming months to explain the looming water and sewer rate increases necessary to maintain the county’s system. 

 A study by consultants Rafetlis presented in December recommended raising sewer consumption rates for households by 15 percent over three years and adjusting the price structure for water consumption rates. The base rate for water and sewer would not be changed.

The average residential consumer, based on using 6,000 gallons a month and currently paying $72.88 a month, might see an increase in their water and sewer bill of $5.67 or 7.8 percent the first year, $5.25 or 6.7 percent the second year, and $4.86 or 5.8 percent the third year.

Water officials have fielded complaints from residents who feel Rockdale’s water rates are excessive, especially when compared those in DeKalb and other metro counties. 

“We need to remind people that DeKalb has 700,000 people and probably 10 times more customers than us(Rockdale),” Rockdale Water Authority Chairman Elaine Nash said during the authority’s first meeting of 2012 Thursday. “If you have a smaller county and less people per linear mile, you divide by the cost by the number of people you have.”

According to Rockdale Water Resources Director Dwight Wicks, a rate increase is necessary because the water department is in need of capital due to a decline in net assets over the last five years. Wicks said contributions from developers and from funds generated through SPLOST have significantly declined since 2007 and the department is unable to maintain the current system or make any improvements unless rates are increased. 

Newly appointed Water Authority member David Shipp said Thursday, “It is a constantly improving situation. We are getting the debt down and over time will have more money to maintain the system.”