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Water/sewer rate hike recommended
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Rockdale residents may see a water and sewer consumption rate increase in the near future for the next three years if county commissioners follow the recommendations from a study presented Tuesday.

Alex Warmath, vice president of consulting firm Raftelis, said the study focused on several goals, including providing enough revenue for Rockdale Water Resources to maintain and upkeep capital and not just operations, making the price structure in line with state conservation requirements, making sewer operations financially self-sufficient instead of being subsidized by the water operations, and putting RWR in a strong enough financial position to eventually borrow from the bond market in 2016 for building new sewer plants.

The study also found that the current rates would not be enough to keep up with exisiting bond covenant requirements for debt service to coverage ratios.

"Our revenues are not keeping up with the revenue requirements," said Warmath. Eventually, RWR's reserves would be depleated on the current rate structure.

The study, which focused on residential rates and not on commercial rates, recommended raising sewer consumption rates by 15 percent over three years and adjusting the price structure for water consumption rates.

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, $4.86 or 5.8 percent the third year.

Water consumption rate blocks would be increased from three blocks to four blocks and the price increased over three years. The blocks would be split into 0-3,000 gallons a month, 3,000-7,000 gallons a month, 7,000-12,000 gallons a month, and more than 12,000 gallons a month. Non residential customers would pay the same rate as the 3,000-7,000 gallons a month block.

The prices per thousand gallons within those blocks would increase eventually over three years to $3.25 for the first block, $4.07 for the second block, $4.88 for the third block, $5.69 for the fourth block.

The base rate for water and sewer would not be changed.

RWR has about 25,000 water customers and about 10,000 sewer customers.

Two smaller sewer plants in the south side of Rockdale will be required by the Environmental Protection Agency to go offline around 2015, although the county has been in discussions with the EPA regarding those plants.

The base rate for residential users was increased in 2009 after a 10 year period of no increase.