Water rates rising in Calera and Helena

Water rates will soon increase for customers in Calera and Helena, as both cities are seeing increases in operating fees as well as significant decreases in revenue generated by builders’ fees.

Water rates for customers in the city of Calera will increase by 10 percent effective April 30.

The Water Works Board voted unanimously for the increase to offset costs of the city’s new water treatment plant, which took more than $1 million to construct, said board president Bobby Joe Phillips.

“With our plant overrun in estimated cost and having to hire five new employees to operate the plant 24/7, we had to put a rate increase on in order to pay our bills,” said Phillips, adding a slump in city domestic fees also contributed to the rate increase.

The minimum water charge, which covers the first 2,500 gallons, will go from $20.53 to $22.58. For the next 2,500 gallons, the rate will go from $5.06 per 1,000 gallons to $5.57. The rates include a 4 percent utility tax, Phillips said.

“We don’t like to raise rates, but with the economy the way it is, we just had to,” he said.

Meanwhile, Helena’s water and sewer rates will increase by 8 percent May 1, said Water Department Clerk Barbara Hyche.

The minimum water fee, which is based on 2,000 gallons, will increase from $10 to $12. The fee for each additional 1,000 gallons of water will increase from $3.58 to $3.87.

The minimum sewer fee, also based on 2,000 gallons, will increase from $12 to $15. The fee for each additional 1,000 gallons will go from $1.67 to $1.80.

Hyche said several factors caused the increase, including rising costs of materials, equipment and utilities.

“Just the general cost of doing business of doing business has increased significantly,” she said.

The last water and sewer rate increase was in 2007, and since then, Helena’s fuel costs have doubled. The city’s utility bills are up by 17 percent, while impact fees paid by builders have dropped 70 percent.

However, Hyche said consumer costs shouldn’t increase by much.

“The minimum bill is only going to increase by $5 a month for water and sewer. It will go up by usage, but this is not a significant increase,” she said.