Alabaster to hold public hearing on proposed utility rate increases

Published 9:42 pm Thursday, September 17, 2009

City residents next month will have a chance to voice their opinions on a pair of proposed utility rate increases.

The Alabaster City Council during a Thursday night meeting announced it will hold two public hearings during the council’s Oct. 1 meeting at the City Hall Annex off Highway 31 in downtown Alabaster.

During the hearings, residents will be able to voice concerns over two proposed rate increases discussed during the council’s Sept. 10 work session.

Council members have proposed raising the city’s monthly garbage fee from $12.41 to $13.99, and raising city sewer rates by an average of about $3 per month.

The rate increases would aid in stabilizing Alabaster’s garbage- and sewer-related expenditures, and would prevent the city from using its general fund and reserves to maintain the services, Alabaster officials said Sept. 10.

After holding the hearings, the City Council will vote on the increases, which, if passed, would go into effect Nov. 1.

In addition to stabilizing the city’s funds, the increases also would allow Alabaster officials to fund upgrades and repairs at the city’s wastewater treatment facility.

Part of the repairs at the facility would involve repairing recently discovered collapsed rainwater drainage pipes at the plant off Highway 31, Ward 7 Councilman Tommy Ryals said Sept. 10.

Council members Thursday night authorized Mayor David Frings to file a lawsuit against the Talladega-based Charles Tucker consulting engineering firm, which provides consulting services for the wastewater treatment plant.

Though the council revealed few details regarding the lawsuit, Ward 5 Councilman and Council President Jim McClain said the suit was related to “failures at the wastewater treatment facilities.”

As the mayor pursues legal action against the engineering firm, council members will continue to review the city’s proposed operating budgets for the 2010 fiscal year.

The council initially planned to vote on the budgets Thursday, but instead postponed the vote until its Oct. 1 meeting to allow city officials more time to review the document.

“In the general operating budget, there aren’t too many frills, if any at all,” Frings told the council. “But I think it’s a good, balanced budget for this day and age.”

The proposed operating budget includes nearly $22.5 million in revenues, and about $22.4 million in expenditures, Frings explained.

After voting on the garbage and sewer rate increases, the City Council also will vote on the city’s proposed sewer and garbage budgets.

The proposed sewer budget includes about $4.5 million in revenues and about the same figure in expenditures. The proposed garbage budget includes about $1.7 million in revenues and expenditures.

“Those sewer and garbage figures make the assumption that they will include those revenue streams that will come before the board during the next meetings,” Frings said of the proposed utility rate increases.