Rhodhiss water, sewer rates may jump 30 percent

Mar. 19, 2014 @ 08:45 AM

Water and sewer rates in Rhodhiss may go up by 30 percent starting July 1, by about $18 a month for the average customer.

The Rhodhiss Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday night to build the increase into the town's proposed 2014-15 budget, which would take effect July 1.

Mayor Rick Justice and the council members said that the decision probably will anger some residents. Town Clerk Diane Eckard said the town has been “living beyond our means” because water and sewer rates have been too low to keep up with expenses, and the town's savings will be “depleted in two years if we continue on this route.”

“I don’t think we can stop the bleeding," Justice said, shaking his head, "but I think we can slow it down.”

Currently, the average water bill for a family is $62 a month. With a 30 percent increase, the monthly would jump to $80. Commissioners said that may be a hardship for residents, but the town is left with few options.

Eckard said the town could reduce the public works staff but said it already is too small. Aside from raising rates, the only choice left would be to bankrupt the reserve fund, which should be used for town emergencies, she said.

Town Manager Barbara Harmon added, “The town can’t afford to keep up the town.”

Town officials hope to gain financial breathing room through a $3 million Community Development Block Grant that would be used to repair the water and sewer problems plaguing the town and repair 35 manholes. If Rhodhiss receives the grant and makes the repairs, town commissioners want to revisit the water and sewer rates to see whether they can be lowered again.

There will be a public hearing about the CDBG and the water and sewer infrastructure problems next Tuesday, March 25, at 5 p.m. in the Town Hall.