Policy set on water service

Friday, January 23, 2009

As Marshall County's Board of Public Utilities continues to receive requests from residents who want water service, the Board has decided how some decisions should be made when dealing with the requests.

The decision is to favor water line extensions that will help build the customer base and increase revenues so that a prospective water rate hike might be limited because more people are buying water from the countywide system.

MCBPU Chairman Rocky Bowden recommended the policy and Board member Mickey King supported it toward a unanimous vote, according to Mary Ann Neill, another member of the Board.

Neill, however, warned the Board there could be misconceptions among county residents that might lead to allegations that one part of the county is favored over another.

"You're going to hear it," Neill told the Board. "You'll be ridiculed."

County residents will complain, anyway, she noted. However, the utility needs to increase its revenue stream.

A 34 percent rate hike is needed to bring the utility to a financial position of strength, according to a consultant who based that on a variety of factors including: system expansion, equipment purchases and accounting practices such as depreciation.

"What I'm saying;" Bowden said when he opened the point on pipeline extensions for discussion with the Board, "Take in as many more as we can so, maybe, we won't take as hard a hit on rates."

MCBPU is about to complete the first phase of a three-phase, 57-mile water pipe extension project. The second phase is apparently going to be built by a private contractor instead of work crews employed directly by the system.

Bowden and others on the Board have predicted cost savings because the utility bought its own trenching equipment for the project. Money from that savings could be used to extend water lines, according to board discussion Tuesday and during previous monthly meetings.

When faced with a decision on whether to extend water service from one water main toward a series of prospective customers, utility system leaders should consider the cost of development and the number of new customers, King said to outline the policy accepted Tuesday.

If one extension was more advantageous to the system instead of another, then the improvement of the system's revenues and containment of costs is a chief factor when deciding, according to the board's new policy.

The policy will affect people who go to MCBPU meetings asking for water service.

"Any progress on getting water to us," Louise Monroe, 81, of Haislip Hollow Road asked the Board during its meeting in utility offices on West Commerce Street.

"We need it bad, Monroe said, explaining she buys bottled water for drinking, cooking and other such household uses.

Water District Superintendent Tommy Whaley replied that Monroe is on the system's list of people who've requested water service and, like others, her request will be reviewed when water pipe extensions are planned.

"When all three phases of the 57-mile project are finished, we are hoping to have some money left over," Whaley said. "Then, we'll go back to out... list."

The decision won't be based on when people asked, Whaley said. Need and the ability to serve are other factor, he said.

Monroe said her son lives across the street from her and in the summer they have received water deliveries from the Marshall County Emergency Management Agency. Water has been stored in a swimming pool and used in the house, she said.

Micky Tate of Charlie Thomas Road also asked about getting water service and was told requests are recorded on the list. Tate showed understanding toward people without a source of water asked if proximity to Interstate 65 would affect his chances of getting water service.

Bowden said he doesn't remember a time when the district had to bore under I-65, and asked if service might come from Fairview's water district. MCBPU has, for example, cooperated with the Bedford County Utility District so Marshall County residents could get water from the other utility.

Other aspects of cooperation between utilities were discussed, but the circumstances indicate the number of customer taps is small compared to the 57-mile project.