Renovating Harlem's outdated sewer system may cost residents $10 a month more on their monthly bills.
But Harlem City Council members are fighting the potential increase, which would help pay for repairing cracks in city sewage pipes that allow rainwater to seep in.
The repairs are part of plans to comply with mandates set forth by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, officials said.
Members of the city's Public Works Committee met Thursday morning to talk about the required repairs. During the meeting, John McClellan - an engineer with G. Ben Turnipseed Engineers contracted to help solve the city's pipe problem - informed the committee that water rates for Harlem residents may have to be raised as much as $10 a month to offset the cost of the repairs.
City Councilman Craig Brooks balked at the figure saying, "We can't let that happen. That $10 can turn out to be a lot of money to a lot of people, especially for those on fixed incomes."
McClellan suggested that Harlem extend water and sewer service to three subdivisions, two within city limits and one just north of town, to bring in additional revenue.
The city also hopes to convince developers to contribute to much of the infrastructure work required at those subdivisions - the Lewis property, Shady Grove and Campbell's Crossing - in exchange for incentives like not charging them a tap fee to use the city water lines.
The committee discussed initially paying for the repairs with a loan from the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority. Officials aren't sure yet just how much the loan will be.
With additional revenue generated by the three subdivisions and developers' contributions, combined with reserve funds in the city's budget and special-purpose local options sales tax money, the council hopes to pay off the state loan without having to raise water rates in the city.
The project will be discussed further in a city council work session Thursday, March 6, at 6:30 p.m. at Harlem City Hall. It is expected that the work session will produce a final recommendation on the matter that will then be voted on at a city council meeting Monday, March 10, at 7:30 p.m.
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