Local government officials met last week to hear a recommendation on raising the water and sewer rates for all customers connected to the system. The Water and Sewer Commission voted to raise the rates on both to cover the increased cost of operation.
On the water side, ready to service fees will go up 50 cents and the charge per 1,000 gallons will go from $3 to $3.50. For sewer rates, the ready to service fee will go from $5 to $6. Rates inside Thomson will go from $2 per 1,000 gallons to $2.40, and outside the city the rates will go from $2.50 to $3.
The recommendation came from Robin Chasman of the engineering firm Chasman and Associates, who had been studying the two systems for Thomson and McDuffie County. He said since the old rates were not covering the cost, it was time to change them.
"Their rates are based on cost," Mr. Chasman said. "They calculate rates to generate enough revenue to cover their cost. And the old water rates have been in affect since 2003, and the sewer rates since 2004.
"During that time two things have happened. Number one, the costs have gone up substantially, energy costs, chemical costs, all those things. ...Then there has also been a trend in the reduction of the amount of water people use."
With those things in mind, the Water and Sewer Commission approved the rate hike to make sure the system remains solvent. Despite the higher rates, the prices for McDuffie water and sewer customers are comparable with those of surrounding communities.
"Any time you start considering rates, one of the things you just like to take a look at is to see how you do compare with your neighbors," said Thomson City Administrator Bob Flanders.
Before the raise, McDuffie's rates were at the low end of the area spectrum with only Grovetown having lower prices. The current hike puts McDuffie in the middle of the pack with Warrenton, Wrens and Washington having higher rates and Augusta, Harlem Columbia County and Grovetown having lower rates.
"It's not one of the things that drives the rates. It's kind of a question you ask yourself after you see where you've got to go in order to be fiscally responsible," Mr. Flanders said. "I was pleased with where we turned out after I looked at it because we're kind of in the middle of the pack."
According to Mr. Chasman, local leaders will look into adjusting rates along with the cost of living to stay away from large rate jumps.
"Any raise is significant," Mr. Flanders said. "But (the current raise) is a conservative increase based on the cost increase that we have had and the increased standards of quality that we have got to meet and the things that we've got to do to meet that."
The new water and sewer rates will go into affect in January and will show up on the February bills.