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Gainesville water rates going up too much, customer says

POSTED: December 29, 2007 5:02 a.m.
One woman expressed her disdain for the new water rates at this morning's Gainesville City Council meeting.

Eileen Feeley of Nagshead Circle, said the tiered water rates, dubbed "conservation pricing," that go into effect in January are unfair to larger families.

"I just feel the tiered rates are unfair to a lot of people, and its going to cause a lot of people a lot of pain," Feeley said. "There's a lot of us who that increase is going to affect a lot with all the other prices that are going up."

Feeley said she called Gainesville's Public Utilities department to ask about the new pricing plan, and was told that the department was teaching her to conserve water.

"To tell me that you were going to teach me conservation by increasing my rates is really a wrong attitude for a city council," Feeley said.

"Teaching shouldn't be punitive, it should be informative."

City Manager Bryan Shuler told Feeley that higher prices can be an incentive to conserve.

"An economist will debate with you whether or not pricing affects behavior," Shuler said. "Irregardless of what the city would want to do about it, the city was required to adopt a water conservation pricing plan," Shuler said.

The Metro North Georgia Water Planning District required all 16 counties in the Metro Atlanta area to develop water conservation pricing plans. Gainesville was one of the last to develop its pricing plan.

"The city took its time, we looked carefully at our customer base and tried to ease our way into a water conservation pricing structure," Shuler said.

Council adopted the conservation rates as part of the city's budget in June. The rates, however, are not supposed to go into effect until next month.

Shuler said the council will continue to look at how to make the pricing plan better in the future.

"One of the issues with this rate structure ... it does not necessarily take into account the size of someone's family, it looks at the amount of water that you use," Shuler said.

"A larger water user will pay a higher rate under this, irregardless of whether there's any discretionary water use," Shuler said. "There was a lot of discussion and a lot of debate about the appropriateness of that on this council and among the staff."



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