Alabaster businesses question commercial-aimed sewer rate hikes

The Alabaster Business Association is calling recent sewer rate hikes to businesses &uot;unfair.&uot;

The increases were put into place to help pay for a nearly $10 million expansion of the current sewer treatment plant.

The Business Association requested that the Alabaster city council meet with a three-member committee from the association to discuss alternatives at the council’s Jan. 21 meeting.

Chris Fulmer, owner of Top Of The Line, an Alabaster business, presented a petition to the Alabaster City Council to &uot;seek an alternative funding method more equally balanced to the commercial and residential users of the sewer facilities.&uot;

The petition was drafted by the Business Association and the group’s president, Amy Milliron, said it was signed by more than 100 business owners.

According to the petition, the base fee for commercial businesses for the period of Oct. 1, 2002, to Sept. 30, 2003, increased from $22 per month to $44 per month while the usage fee increased from $1.05 to $7.43 per 1,000 gallons of water usage after the first 5,000 gallons.

Also according to the petition: &uot;For commercial businesses, these increases represent a 100 percent increase in the base rate and a 500 percent

increase in the usage rate.

&uot;By passage of Ordinance No. 02-009, the City Council of Alabaster has selected your business as the source of generating the additional revenue needed to fund the new sewer treatment plant.

Currently, there are an estimated 7,000 residential sewer customers and only 330 commercial sewer customers within the city of Alabaster.&uot;

On the other hand, residential sewer rates remained at $17.50 per month and the per gallon rate increased from $1.05 to $1.40.

Both commercial and residential rates are scheduled to continue to increase in phases through 2004.

Following the council meeting, councilmember Adam Moseley said: &uot;Any change will have to come back before the council.&uot;

Regarding concerns about residential representation in any meeting with businesses, Ryals said the council is elected to represent the citizens.

He said after the meeting that residential sewer rates increased from a base rate of $10 to a base rate of $17.50 a few years ago representing a &uot;significant&uot; increase for the residents.

The council held a public hearing on the sewer rate increases to fund the sewer expansion project on July 15, 2002.

After no one voiced objections to the change, the council approved the rate increase schedule.

P.F. Moon of West Point, Ga., was also awarded the low bid at $9.7 million to expand the sewer system from a capacity of 3 million gallons per day to 7.5 million gallons per day.

After pre-council discussion as to who should have access to use the council building, Mayor David Frings said, &uot;If we find someone who is using it who is not supposed to, we will work with them to give them a chance to find another place. We won’t just toss them out in the cold.&uot;

Councilmembers discussed in their pre-council session the need for a printed list of criteria as to who is eligible to use the City Hall Annex and for those eligible persons to sign for the key to the building.

Frings reported to the council that CSX Railroad has contacted the city about railroad crossings and said they will be repaired by the second week of February. The repairs will be a &uot;permanent fix,&uot; CSX officials said.

He reported that Congressman Spencer Bachus is trying, on the city’s behalf, to get an answer to a dispute of the latest census figures.

Frings appointed Chris Dorough, Gary and Joy Elliott and Ann Dawson to the city’s Beautification Board.

In other action the council:

Approved the annexation of six acres of land at the intersection of Interstate 65 and U.S. Highway 31 for D&D LLC.

Ryals said the land is located across from the BP Station and that he hopes to see commercial development on the property.

Appointed Henry Raymond to a two-year term on the Park & Recreation Board.

Set Feb. 3 for a public hearing to amend the nuisance ordinance to make it easier to enforce by citation rather than arrest.

Approved a street light request on Smokey Road at Stagecoach Trace Subdivision.

Set a council work session for Thursday, Jan. 30 at 7 p.m.

Heard a plea from Councilmember Henry Hines to make free day at the landfill on April 12 a big day for the city’s third annual clean-up