• 73°

Water rates, fees increasing

Customers of the Atmore Utilities Board will see an increase in their bills soon as officials announced earlier this week that several new rate increases would go into effect beginning Oct. 1.

Current customers will see a slight increase in the water portion of their billing, but new and delinquent accounts as well as deposits will see more substantial increases as officials attempt to protect their investment.

According to Utilities Board Manager Tom Wolfe, water deposits for renters and mobile homes will double from $75 to $150. Officials are hoping this will help the department save money in the long run.

“We are losing money by people taking off and not paying us,” Wolfe said. “Some people are just leaving and not paying us because our deposits were not high enough.”

Wolfe believes customers will be more willing to pay their final bills instead of skipping out on them if they have more deposit money invested.

In addition, account establishment and termination fees, most commonly referred to by customers as cut ons and cut offs, will be increased to $50 for each service, which includes current customers moving locations. The penalty for delinquent accounts, those that are on the cut off list, will also be increased to $50 per service.

Wolfe said those fees, which help to offset the cost of manpower to cut the water on and off, are ones he and Utilities Board officials believe are preventable.

“We feel like they are discretionary charges that the customer can choose to avoid by paying their bill,” he said. “We would rather not make money on it, we want them to pay their bill.”

Those paying their bills late will also be charged a 5 percent fee with a minimum of $5.

Lastly, water is increasing by 40 cents per thousand gallons used from $2.15 to $2.55. Wolfe said that a household averages 5,000 gallons of water used monthly. He said customers are charged an $11 minimum fee for the first 3,000 gallons used and then $2.55 is charged for each additional 1,000 gallons used.

Although water is increasing, Wolfe said Atmore’s water rates are three times less than statewide averages.

“We are way under the statewide average on water fees,” he said.

According to the Alabama Rural Water Association, the average cost statewide for 3,000 gallons of water is $34.59.

The rate increases come a year following an increase in sewer rates to help pay for $9 million in renovations at the waste water treatment plant, renovations Wolfe said were required by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to meet its “stringent requirements.”

As for another sewer increase, Wolfe said he hopes it is not necessary.

“We are not going up on sewer at this time,” he said. “We’ve got some grant requests in to the USDA to help repair some of our sewer mains. Sometimes those grants require a cap on sewer fees, so we don’t want to raise fees now and have to raise them again a few months down the road. We are hopeful that the USDA won’t make us raise them at all.”