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Flowery Branch utilities may go up
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Flowery Branch council meeting
What: Discussion of a possible new utility fee structure
When: 6 p.m. Thursday
Where: City Hall, 5517 Main St., Flowery Branch
Contact: 770-967-6371

Higher water and sewer rates for Flowery Branch’s longtime residents could be on the horizon.

Flowery Branch City Council is scheduled to discuss the matter at its Thursday night meeting, with the vote on the new rate structure taking place possibly on Sept. 23, City Manager Bill Andrew said.

“I’m really trying to bring (the rates) in compliance with the council’s wishes on equalizing old and new rates,” he said Monday.

The current rate structure, with varying levels of commercial and residential charges based on usage amounts, has “established” residential customers paying $19.90 monthly for using up to 4,500 gallons of water and $22.39 for up to 4,500 gallons of sewer.

“New” residential customers, or those who moved into the city after June 2000, now pay $24.89 for up to 4,500 gallons of water and $29.87 for up to 4,500 gallons of sewer.

To have all users pay the same, established customers would now pay the new customers rate, meaning basic water-sewer rates would go up a combined $12.47 monthly, or about $150 yearly, for longtime residents.

The rate disparity dates to a 2008 council vote, with three of those five council members now gone.

They were succeeded in January by three relative newcomers to the city — Kris Yardley,  Mike Miller and Tara Richards. They are joined by Councilman Chris Fetterman, who voted against the rates in 2008.

Earlier this year, the city contracted with a Roswell-based firm, Cybergov Consultants, to study the city’s utility rate structure and make recommendations.

Allen Bryans Sr., one of the council members approving the rates in 2008, spoke against the equalization move when it was announced at a council meeting in May.

“A lot of the people in old town are on fixed income,” he told City Council. “It’s going to make a hardship on some of those people.”

The proposed resolution does carry a hardship rate, which allows for a $10 discount monthly to the minimum water bill, for those who qualify. The rate is open to residents 65 or older and or who are disabled, plus there are income requirements.

Longtime resident Henry Skipper said Monday he sees the reasons behind the change.

“I can see where the people in these new subdivisions ... have a complaint,” he said. “You know what it’s like to move into a new location and find out you’re paying a lot more (for utilities) than some other people.”

At the same time, however, he said he would like to see a system of residents paying for “what you use, not how much you can use,” referring to minimum charges. That would benefit some older residents living alone, Skipper said.

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