City passes water rate increase

Posted August 26, 2020 at 2:20 pm

It is now official. Water rates for all customers on the city’s municipal water system will see a 25 percent rate increase that will become effective this November, following action taken by Albany City Council.

The council approved second and final reading of the water and sewer rate adjustments at a special call meeting at City Hall last Wednesday afternoon, August 19.

Five of six council members were present. Councilman Tony Delk, the only member who had cast a no vote on the increase at first reading the previous week, was unable to attend.

Only a brief discussion was held prior to the vote to approve second reading, with councilwoman Tonya Thrasher noting she had been in contact with an official with the Kentucky League of Cities who had indicated the city may be able to offer a discount to senior citizens, 62 or above, on rates.

At a previous special meeting on August 12, Delk had voiced concern about people who were on fixed incomes.

It isn’t clear if any discount would affect all senior citizens, for example, those who still may be working, or just those on limited, fixed incomes.

City legal advisor Norb Sohm said he would check with the KLC and other cities pertaining to a possible discount for seniors when the rate hikes take affects and the ordinance could be amended to reflect a discount for those residents.

The ordinance calls for the new rates to become effective with the billing period corresponding to the month of November 2020.

City water customers who also are on the sewer system will see an increase related to their sewer bills as well.

The motion to approve second reading of the ordinance raising the rates 25 percent across the board was again made by councilman Reed Sloan. The motion was seconded by councilman Steve Lawson and passed by unanimous vote.

The subject of a needed increase in rates to keep the water system solvent and from going broke has been ongoing and discussed with David Bowles of Monarch Engineers over a two meeting span earlier this month.

There is also an ongoing and yet to be determined problem of loss of water, as some estimates are that the city is losing up to 40 percent of the water that runs through its system.

Several studies have been conducted over the past few years, but exactly where the water is being lost has not been determined.

During last Wednesday afternoon’s meeting, City Engineer David Bowles with Monarch Engineers presented the following letter which he entitled, “City Forced to Deal with Troubled Water System.” The opinion reads as follows:

“The City of Albany recently received the results of its overdue audit on the water system for the fiscal year that ended in June 2019. It was revealed in the audit that, during that year, the city’s water department lost almost $100,000 in actual cash. Forecasting ahead to the fiscal year that ended in June of 2020, indicates that the city will lose at least another $150,000 for that year, which recently ended. Faced with this dire situation, the city has no choice but to raise water rates in order to avoid the city’s water department falling into bankruptcy and being taken over by a private company.

“The city’s problems go farther than cash flow issues, the water plant that treats the water runs almost 24 hours a day, seven days a week and it doesn’t always meet the water demands for the customers. There are times when there have been water outages in the Duvall Valley and Bald Rock areas along with low water pressure throughout the entire water system. Some of the buried water lines in the water system have been in service for over 50 years and are in need of replacement with newer and larger water lines. In order to replace the lines, government funds would be sought that would consist of low interest loans that would require debt repayments. The city also needs a new backhoe, dump truck and trailer, and an inventory of parts that would facilitate the repair of water line breaks when they occur.

“There is help on the way; the city has received news that funds are being earmarked to repair the water system in Duvall Valley and Bald Rock, to fix the aging water plant, and possibly install a new water line along the Bypass Highway, contingent upon the city’s ability to operate the water system with a positive cash flow. In order to meet the needs for daily operation and to repair and improve the existing water systems, the amount of revenue needed would be an additional 25 percent more than the current revenue stream. Of that, approximately 15 percent would go toward day to day operation, four percent would go toward upgrading the Duvall Valley/Bald Rock areas, four percent would be applied to the upgrade to the water plant, and two percent would go toward the installation of the water line along the bypass.”

(The water/sewer rate Ordinance adopted last week, including rates per gallon of water used for residential, business and commercial, can be found in the legal pages of this week’s Clinton County News.)