Grovetown residents and those outside the city limits who subscribe to the city's waste and sewer services will see larger bills beginning next year.
The city council approved a 15 percent water/sewer rate increase at Monday's city council meeting, to take effect Jan. 1.
"We decided that we could go up and be reasonable without coming down hard on the customers, the citizens themselves," said Todd Baldwin, Grovetown's water and sewer director.
In Grovetown, water bills are based on a minimum use of 3,000 gallons of water a month, a service that now costs $13.70. Starting Jan. 1, that same bill will be $15.15, said Vicky Capetillo, a utility clerk for the city.
Average family households in Grovetown use from 3,000 to 20,000 gallons of water per month, Capetillo said, adding that a 10,000-gallon-a-month bill costs $44 before the increase and will rise to about $50.60.
"It's about a 15 percent hike, but it's in little bits," Mayor Dennis Trudeau said. "We'll try to make it as minor as possible."
The city has been in a temporary agreement with Columbia County's Water and Sewer Division to treat some of the city's sewage for the past eight years while city officials pondered options to handle the growing city, Trudeau said.
Earlier this year, city council members voted to maintain their own sewer system instead of deeding the entire water/sewer system over to the county and losing control of it.
"With that decision (to retain the system), we have a bill to pay," Trudeau said. "But in all fairness, (the county) has been letting us use their capacity for eight or nine years at no charge.
"They have to pay the bills. It's only fair that we pay our part."
Monday night's rate increase will help the city sewer department perform needed upgrades, including the installation of new lines or replacement of old ones, and will include a 4.9 percent increase in county water and sewer charges that will go into effect April 1.
Baldwin said that if the raised rate had been instituted in October, the city would have collected nearly $12,000 more in revenue for that month alone.
"You are probably going to average about $10,000 more a month," Baldwin told the city council Monday. "It will be roughly a $115,000 to $120,000 increase next year, and that should help offset whatever we have had to come out of (special purpose local option sales tax) or renew an extension to help pay for this new infrastructure."
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