County, private sewer company negotiating rates

COLUMBIANA – Shelby County and the owner of three local wastewater treatment facilities are working to establish a rate structure acceptable for both parties.

The Shelby County Commission at its meeting on Monday, May 13, approved a resolution authorizing County Manager Alex Dudchock and County Manager Butch Ellis to execute a memorandum of understanding with SouthWest Water related to its rates and services associated with the North Shelby and Riverview facilities.

SouthWest serves about 15,000 customers in Shelby County, also including the Shelby Ridge system in Chelsea.

Chelsea approved in February a rate structure and control agreement with SouthWest that gave the city the authority to review rates annually and ensure that rate adjustments are consistent with what is typically allowed by the Alabama Public Service Commission, though the state board currently does not have oversight of the private sewer systems in Shelby County.

An amendment to the Alabama Constitution applicable only to Shelby County was introduced during the 2019 regular session of the state Legislature, which would bring the local sewer systems under PSC control.

But the MOU between the county and SouthWest states that even if adopted by lawmakers, an election on the amendment would not occur until the general election of November 2020.

“The parties believe it is in the best interest of all parties to establish to the extend possible local regulation and control of rates and rate structures,” the memorandum states.

So, Shelby County and SouthWest will “attempt to negotiate a rate structure applicable to both North Shelby and Riverview customers…SouthWest will produce and validate to Shelby County assurance that the rate structure and amounts agreed upon will earn a return on equity not exceeding such amounts regularly approved by the PSC historically.”