With Grovetown's housing developments growing faster than the city's water and sewage lines can keep up with, new solutions are needed to avoid a drastic rate increase, officials said Saturday during a work session about the issue.
There are about 1,400 homes either under construction or in development in Grovetown. In order to meet the growing demands, it could be necessary for the city to increase water and sewer rates by as much as 50 percent in the next two years, said Mark Ivey, vice president of G. Ben Turnipseed Inc., an engineering firm consulting the city council on its options.
"If we jump water and sewer rates 50 percent over two years time, we can forget about running for re-election," City Councilman David Daughtry said.
The average Grovetown household pays $26 a month for water and sewer service. Ivey said if the council chooses to continue maintaining the infrastructure on its own, they will need to charge an average of $52 a month by 2006.
"Growth is a wonderful thing, but it's a double-edged sword," he said.
Currently, Grovetown's only wastewater treatment facility is at full capacity, and more than $1.5 million of unpaid principal is left on the revenue bonds the city used to pay for the plant.
City council members are negotiating with Columbia and Richmond counties to buy water and to export its wastewater to another facility, but that still will require added lines. The city already is accepting bids for the construction of two new water and sewer lines.
One option might be to deed water and sewage facilities to Columbia County.
Columbia County Water Works has made a proposal to Grovetown to accept its infrastructure facilities and to handle maintenance, construction and billing for water and sewer service in the city.
Some council members said they disliked that option because they felt it would put them at the mercy of a county government they think is inattentive.
"We're already treated like the red-headed stepchild," Councilman Bruce Stoddard said. "I don't think the county will be there for us when we need them."
Grovetown officials often agree to run sewer and water lines to housing developments if the developers agree to be annexed by the city. The county makes no such deals, and council members said they feared that Grovetown's potential for growth would be taken out of their hands.
These and other options will be discussed further during a town meeting tonight at 7 p.m. at Grovetown City Hall. Officials are encouraging residents to attend, ask questions and voice their opinions on the issue.
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