Columbiana considers sewer rate increase

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Columbiana city officials are discussing raising sewer and garbage rates before the beginning of the next budget year.

During a work session on July 31, city council members discussed the need to raise rates in response to the operating budget exceeding the amount of funds brought in by utilities.

City Planner and Public Works Director Hilry King said the city is currently $46,000 in the red when it comes to revenue from sewer and garbage services. The city is currently making up for the difference by taking money from its sales tax fund.

King proposed that the city raise sewer rates by 15 percent to cover the deficit so sales tax money would not have to be used.

&8220;We would break even with a 15 percent increase,&8221; King said.

King also noted that the city currently has a sewer reserve of $117,000.

&8220;We have to have the reserve for emergencies,&8221; he said.

Columbiana Mayor Allen Lowe placed the proposed rate increase on the agenda for the council&8217;s Aug. 15 regular meeting.

&8220;We need to do this now in order to make good budget predictions for the upcoming year,&8221; Lowe said. &8220;We also need to continue to put a lesser amount of sales tax revenue into the sewer fund.&8221;

King said the average sewer bill for a Columbiana resident is $11 a month. The 15 percent increase would raise that rate by $1.65 a month.

Garbage collection rates

Columbiana city leaders also discussed garbage collection during the Monday work session.

King said the city had three options for collecting its garbage, including contracting with the county garbage service, bid the service to an outside provider, or lessen the services currently provided by the city.

The council discussed the idea of raising garbage collection rates to $16 a month, plus adding a $2.50 surcharge to cover operating costs.

King said Columbiana residents currently pay around $14

per month for services. Businesses pay around $85 per month, King said.

Lowe noted the importance and convenience of the city&8217;s &8220;backyard&8221; pickup service.

&8220;We&8217;re the last city in the county that offers backyard service,&8221; he said. &8220;We need to hang on to that as long as we can.&8221;

The proposed rate would cost customers $2 per pickup compared to $3 per pickup if the city were to contract with Shelby County, Lowe said.

The city would still have eight pickups per month and continue to accept larger trash including brush and tree limbs.

King said under the county contract garbage would be picked up once a week and each resident would only be allowed a 90-gallon can.

Lowe said the surcharge was necessary to keep garbage collection equipment running.

&8220;I would like to see us keep our service the way we have it now and still cover ourselves for operating improvements.&8221;

The council is scheduled to discuss the rate increases during its Aug. 14 regular meeting