There will still be no charge for garbage collection in Dearing after a city council vote Monday night.
During the March 8 meeting, the Dearing City Council reversed an earlier ruling on paying for the sewer system revenue shortfall with garbage collection fees. After several years, Dearing's portion of the Thomson-McDuffie sewer system shortfall was just over $35,000.
Dearing has already paid the city of Thomson that amount out of its general fund. City leaders agreed that raising the sewer rate was the best way to cover future deficits incurred by an original overestimation of Dearing sewer customers.
The council, after citizen complaints of unfairness, decided to raise the sewer rate by $6 a month to pay for the continuing shortfalls. Any additional money needed to pay for operating the water/sewer system would be paid for out of the city's general fund.
"It was citizen response, mainly widowed women and elderly women living alone. That's what got us thinking about it again," said Dearing Mayor Ralph Menees.
Every household within the city limits is connected to the water/sewer system. So some Dearing sewer customers complained to the city council that charging for garbage collection to pay for a sewer system shortage was not fair because participating in garbage collection was optional.
"That's actually what the money is going to be used for is the sewer system," Mayor Menees said. "It was just to raise revenue to pay for the sewer system."
The shortfall on sewer payments comes from several different sources. Some customers move after racking up a bill that goes unpaid. Also there was an over estimate of the total number of customers.
Sewer rates were first set after a group of engineers estimated that there would be 292 customers within the Dearing city limits. On average there are only 268 customers in Dearing. According to Mayor Menees, this original rate does not cover the cost of operating the system.
"I don't know (how they over estimated)," Mayor Menees said. "But it hurt, see."
Much of the work had already been done to initiate the garbage collection fee. A list of all the water/sewer customers in the city limits still needed to be compared to a list of houses with garbage cans. Work on charging for garbage collection will be dropped now that the proposal has been reversed.
According to Mayor Menees, no date has been set for the rise in the sewer rate to take effect.