Will Pelham water costs increase?

The Pelham Water Board discussed possible changes to water and sewer rate during a Sept. 22 meeting. (File)

The Pelham Water Board discussed possible changes to water and sewer rate during a Sept. 22 meeting. (File)

By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer

PELHAM—Pelham residents may soon see their water costs rise in response to a recent increase in the cost of Shelby County water.

Pelham buys between 30 and 35 percent of its water from Shelby County. On April 1, Shelby County enacted the first in a five-year series of seven percent water rate increases, resulting in a more than 40 percent increase by 2018. With the rate increase scheduled for April 2015, Pelham will start paying $3.21 for every 1,000 gallons of Shelby County water, and by 2013, that will increase to $3.93 per 1,000 gallons, not including operating costs.

“The (Shelby County) rates are going up significantly,” Water Board member Rick Hayes said of the rate increase to cover the county’s costs, noting the city needed to “try and minimize that impact” on Pelham’s water customers.

The Pelham Water Board decided to consider a “two tier approach” to deal with the Shelby County water cost increase. Pelham’s out of city water customers would see an increased base rate for the first 3,000 gallons of water used and an increase in cost for every additional 1,000 gallons used. In city customers would only see an increase in cost for each 1,000 gallons used over the 3,000 gallon minimum.

Currently all Pelham water customers pay a base monthly rate of $13 for the first 3,000 gallons of water and $3.13 for every additional 1,000 gallons. If the proposed rate increase is approved, out of city customers will pay a base rate of $15 and $3.80 for every additional 1,000 gallons of water. In city residents will continue to pay the $13 base rate, and the cost of each additional 1,000 gallons will rise to $3.30.

According to Pelham Public Works Director Eddy Jowers, out of city residents make up about 18.5 percent of the city’s water customers and about 35 percent of all Pelham’s water customers pay only the minimum charge of $13 per month.

“I think that sounds very reasonable considering we’re subsidizing (water costs) with tax money,” Water Board member Beth McMillan said.

Hayes noted $275,000 transferred from the Capital Improvement Fund to the Water and Sewer Department in Pelham’s fiscal year 2015 budget to help cover the cost of system maintenance and upgrades.

Pelham has not increased water rates since 2005, and even with the potential increase, the city’s rates will remain “very competitive” and, in some cases lower, than those in surrounding cities, Hayes said referring to a rate study including the potentially higher rates.

While water costs may rise, Pelham residents may also see a decrease in sewer costs.

Although the base charge of $24.30 for the first 3,000 gallons of sewer water is “very reasonable”, Hayes said Pelham’s $7.30 charge for every additional 1,000 gallons is “high in comparison to our neighbors.”

The Water Board agreed to consider a possible $1.30 decrease in the cost of each additional 1,000 gallons of sewer water, reducing the price to $6.
Hayes added if the proposed water and sewer rate changes are approved, they would yield a net savings for the Pelham water and sewer customers whose usage is over 3,000 gallons per month.

The Pelham City Council will consider the possible water and sewer rate changes and will hold a public hearing on the matter during an Oct. 6 meeting.

“At the moment, these are just conversation items,” Hayes said, noting the City Council will not make a decision until after a public hearing has been held.