Water rates flowing up hill

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fourteen years have passed since Lewisburg Water and Wastewater Department changed water rates for Marshall County Board of Public Utilities and the last time it was to cut the price.

And so, Thursday last week, the department's superintendent, Kenneth Carr, mentioned the prospect of increasing water rates for MCBPU which, in turn, would increase the cost of water not only for county customers, but also for Chapel Hill if it had to buy more supplies than its well and cave could supply.

"I think it would be good if we started negotiating to know where we are with next year's budget," Carr told Councilman Hershel Davis, chairman of the city utility board and the other members present that afternoon.

MCBPU superintendent Tommy Whaley said Monday he's spoken with Carr about utility rate talks but they'd not met.

"I sort of had the feeling that they thought they would probably have to have a rate increase," Whaley said, but he deferred any further comment until speaking with Carr.

Lewisburg sells water to MCBPU for $2.15 per 1,000 gallons.

"Since Feb. 1, 1996, the rate has remained he same and that rate change was a reduction," Carr said.

In October 1992, the rate was set at $2.10 and it was increased to $2.30 in October 1993, but two years and three months later it was lowered, he said.


"It was the right thing to do," Carr replied. "We had included some of the debt service cost (in the new rate) and that didn't have anything to do with their water. The debt service was for nothing that would benefit the county."

Purifying water and piping it to a customer who buys large quantities was seen as one part of the utility while improvements to the distribution system leading to city residents' taps was seen as another.

MCBPU buys about 20 million gallons per month from the city that produces about 67 million gallons monthly, Carr said. The county pays the city about $43,000 a month for water.

Also Thursday, Carr reported he'd been advised that MCBPU and Chapel Hill have discussed the idea of joining forces and building their own raw water tap at Duck River to draw supplies for their own purification plant.

Whaley clarified that information.

"It was a couple of years ago that we said something about building our own plant," Whaley said of a speculative discussion with Chapel Hill officials. "But it was idle talk that went nowhere."

There's also been discussion about consolidating utilities in this county.

"Giles County has six different utilities and they are in the process of trying to pool them all together to save money," Carr said. "That's funny economics, folks.

"But," Carr concluded, "we'll see."

The Fairview Utility District is one of the six, he said, having noted that the city's extension of the Cornersville system's pipes has been completed and: "The first customer was turned on today."

The Lynnville Road pipeline was funded with federal money through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as funneled through the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

The owner of Texas T Campground is one of the advocates of the Lynnville Pipeline.

"He's been having a call a day" about water service, Carr reported Thursday afternoon.

Barbara Benjamin who runs the campground with her husband, Don, said on Monday that their water service started on Friday, a welcome development since they'd been buying 2,500 gallons of water every week for $60.

Carr said Don Benjamin dug a trench to help with the connection.

"He's got to be a happy camper" now that there's water service to his campground, Carr said.