Chelsea moving to purchase sewer system

CHELSEA – The city of Chelsea announced its intent to purchase the sewer system that currently serves the city at a regularly scheduled council meeting on Tuesday, June 19.

Mayor Tony Picklesimer said he will be seeking the city’s approval to purchase the 20-million-dollar system that serves Chelsea from Shelby Ridge Utility Systems. Picklesimer said he is hoping for the city to purchase the entire system, some of which extends to Pelham and unincorporated Shelby County, or just the 60 percent that lies in Chelsea.

According to Picklesimer, the decision came after he and other city officials received numerous complaints about the high sewage fees from residents.

“It’s time to stand up for what’s in the best interest of our citizens,” Picklesimer said.

The sewer system was previously purchased by Southwest Water, on behalf of Shelby Ridge Utility Systems, from Double Oak Water Reclamation. During the negotiations for that purchase, Picklesimer said Southwest Water proposed rate increases between three to seven percent over a period of at least 99 years.

According to the press release, the rate increase would translate into the average homeowner being billed $2,100 per month, or over $25,000 per year, by the end of the agreement.

“This was not acceptable,” Picklesimer said. “Based on current revenue models, sewer rate increases would not be necessary like those proposed by Shelby Ridge Systems.”

Picklesimer said he believes the commercial sewer tap current fees and rates have also been a hindrance to commercial development within the city.

“The initial sewer tap fee requested by the Double Oak Water Reclamation in 2010 for Applebee’s was at least $142,000 according to documents,” the press release. “The mayor says the only way the city was able to recruit the restaurant was because the city offered a large retail incentive to help offset the fees.”

The press release stated that the city built a $3,000,000 waterline along U.S. 280, ending in the Chelsea Park subdivision, in the 1990s. Without that waterline, Picklesimer said businesses like Walmart and Publix, as well as the Chelsea Park neighborhood, would not have been established in the city.

Double Oak Water Reclamation also profited greatly off of the waterline, according to Picklesimer.

“This is where we find ourselves today,” Picklesimer said. “This investment in our infrastructure should bring the city the commercial and retail development that we need and deserve for our citizens.”

If the city were to purchase the sewer system, Picklesimer said no tax inscrease would be needed to fund it. Because Chelsea operates on sales from retail sales made in the city, Picklesimer said the purchase would not affect the city’s operating budget and “pay for itself.”

If the sewer system is municipally owned, Picklesimer said the city will not be able to make a profit off of it. He said the purchase should “provide an essential, affordable service to our residents and developers grow our business community.”

The Chelsea City Council will vote on a resolution that would authorize Picklesimer to make a formal offer for the purchase of the sewer system on July 10.