The Gainesville City Council voted to increase 2010 water and sewer rates by about 6 percent at its meeting Tuesday morning.
Councilman George Wangemann gave a last minute plea to the council to consider implementing a more modest increase until the economy improves.
“I know that we’re supposed to take care of the city of Gainesville, which I think we do a tremendous job of, but there are times when we must also look after our citizens’ concerns as well, and in fact, that’s who we represent,” Wangemann said. “This is a time to help our rate payers more than we help ourselves.”
Wangemann said he has heard from co-workers and constituents who are upset that water and sewer rates could increase during such tough economic times.
“We cut $25 million,” said Tina Wetherford, finance and administration manager for Gainesville’s Public Utilities Department. “We’ve pushed it out as far as we can go.”
Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Bruner commended the Public Utilities Department’s cost-saving efforts.
“We’ve talked about this since February,” Bruner said. “At this point, it would be foolish to go back and cut something.”
Councilman Danny Dunagan pointed out that the rate increases are not as high as anticipated.
“We’re doing a lot better job today than we thought we’d be doing two or three years ago,” Dunagan said. “As bad as I hate to go up on anyone, especially at this time, I think it’s good business instead of hitting them (with rate increases) at one time.”
Factors cited for the rate increase include Department of Transportation projects, Cedar Creek water plant construction, meter replacements and repaying debt for the Linwood Water Reclamation Facility.
Wetherford presented the council with information about the average change different types of customers can expect to see.
Depending on monthly water usage, customers inside the city limits can expect an increase of 92 cents to $6.75. Customers outside the city, who typically are not connected to sewer services, will likely see bills go up between 88 cents and $4.20.
The rate changes usually are approved with the department’s fiscal year budget in June, but for the past two years department officials have waited until late in the year to calculate the rate to know exactly how much it will need to be to keep department budget sheets balanced.