Pelham City Council proposes water rate increases

PELHAM – The Pelham City Council introduced a proposal during a public hearing at its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 17, to increase water rates for customers inside and outside of the city limits.

The city’s current water rates for residential and commercial customers within the city limit is $13 per month for 0-3,000 gallons of water, and then $3.30 per 1,000 gallons thereafter.

Residential and commercial customers outside of the city limits pay $15 per month for 0-3,000 gallons, and then $3.80 per 1,000 gallons thereafter. A 4 percent state sales tax applies to customers inside and outside of the city limits.

The Pelham City Council has expressed that water rate increases are needed to combat wholesale water rate increases from Shelby County.

“The big issue driving this is that Shelby County, I’m sure for good reasons of their own, have increased the wholesale cost of water by 7 percent for the past few years,” said Council President Rick Hayes.

Thirty-five percent of the city’s water is purchased from Shelby County, Hayes said.

The City Council proposed increasing the water rates for those inside the city limits to $14 per month for 0-3,000 gallons of water, and to $16.50 per month for 0-3,000 gallons of water for customers outside of the city limits.

But even with the increases, Pelham’s water rates would still be less than the rates in Alabaster, Calera, Tuscaloosa, Bessemer, Cullman, Cullman County and Shelby County.

“I know some people may view the discussion of increasing water rates right up there with tax increases, but we have a responsibility to make sure that every time you hit the tap or flush the toilet – it works,” said Councilman Ron Scott. “It’s not magic that makes that happen – it’s dollars.”

Scott said he’d prefer to increase water rates now rather than waiting until the city is in an emergency situation.

Director of Public Works Eddy Jowers said Shelby County started increasing their wholesale water rates after passing a resolution in 2008 to implement five increases between 2008 and 2012.

Another resolution was passed in 2014 to increase the wholesale rate by 7 percent every year until 2018. Thus far, the city has been absorbing the cost increases.

However Jowers said there are several Public Works projects that need to be completed but haven’t been because the department has been making less and less money each year.

“We need to lay more lines, paint the tanks and we have over 20 miles of PVC pipes that were installed in the ‘60s and ‘70s that get more and more leaks over time,” Jowers said.

He said it would be ideal to start changing out the PVC pipes with ductile iron pipes, which is a lot more reliable and sturdier.

“It’s just to provide better service,” Jowers said.