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Flowery Branch OKs new water, sewer rates. Low-volume users getting a break
City Hall.jpg
Flowery Branch City Hall - photo by Scott Rogers

Update, Aug. 21: Higher water and sewer rates were approved Thursday, Aug. 20, by Flowery Branch City Council, but low water users could see smaller bills. 

Overall, rates are being increased 5% for water and 7% for sewer, “but with the new rate structure lowering the cost to the low-usage customers and reallocating the costs to the appropriate levels of service used,” according to a city document. 

“The new rate structure was created because of the COVID-19 impact on low-volume customers,” city Finance Director Alisha Gamble said Friday, Aug. 21. 

The new rates are effective immediately and will be part of September bills. 

Flowery Branch has raised rates the past three years to help pay for water and sewer improvements being made to up with growth. The city is planning sewer and water projects totaling $28 million, including $23 million for an expansion of the city's water reclamation plant. 

Flowery Branch still needs to pay for future water and sewer needs to keep up with rapid growth, but low-volume residential water users in the city could catch a break in 2020-21.

“The need for these rate changes is an important contribution to this plan,” the city says in a document about the rates. The new rate structure focuses on “lowering the cost to the low-usage customers and reallocating the costs to the appropriate levels of service used.”

The report cites impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic for the new rate structure.

City Council is set to vote on a rate plan Thursday, Aug. 20, that, among other moves, lowers the monthly residential rate for city residents using up to 4,500 gallons of water and raises it for those using more than 4,500 gallons. 

Flowery Branch City Council

What: Vote on new water, sewer rates taking effect Thursday, Aug. 20

When: 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 20

Where: City Hall, 5410 W. Pine St.

The rate for those using 2,501-4,500 gallons, for example, would be $7, compared to the current $32.01. And the rate for those who use more than 4,500 gallons would be $11.20, compared to $8.89. 

Sewer rates would go up for city residents, including a 27% increase in the base rate, or from $5.51 to $7.

The new rates would take effect Thursday and be part of September bills.

The city has raised rates the past three years, as consultant Nelsnick Enterprises said in 2017 the city needed a series of increases “based on infrastructure improvements needed in our system,” the document says.

“In the spring of 2018, it became apparent we needed to reevaluate the (capital improvement) plan due to various new developments coming to the area and more stress on the current system.”

The document further states: “The current water sewer capital infrastructure needs are increasing as our city continues to grow. The city needed to develop a (plan) for water-sewer infrastructure to remain complaint with (state Environmental Protection Division) regulations and to meet the demands of our growing city.”

The city had public hearings in July on sewer and water projects totaling $28 million.

The $23 million sewer work includes an expansion of the city's water reclamation plant. “A new discharge line to Lake Lanier will also be built but is not a part of the current design contract,” according to a city document. 

The $5 million water work includes an expansion of the city's water supply and distribution, acquisition of two wells owned by the State of Georgia, new treatment facilities in a new well house, well pumps and distribution system pumps, improvements to the existing well system, new system storage, and various water line improvements and extensions.

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